Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Stories from Chorlton Bookshop ..... part 2

Inside the shop
Yesterday I ran part one of the story of our own bookshop and here today is the second instalment.

It sits in a long line of Chorlton businesses which have offered books to the residents of the township.

Back in 1911 there were three listed as bookshops and stationers.

Two of these were  in New Chorlton and the third on Beech Road.

These along with the private lending libraries which were operating from the 1890s and the even earlier Penny Readings and the Reading Room on Beech Road catered for a wide clientele wanting to read everything from fiction through to the serious stuff.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that when the first temporary public library was opened in the November of 1908 it was a runaway success.  It began with the provision of a thousand books a reading room and a meetings room and 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.

And in passing we should not forget Brian the Book who operated successfully from his shop on Beech Road from the 1970s and the very popular Book Festival sponsored by the Library Service every November.

All of which places Chorlton Bookshop into a context and makes it a little bit of the history of where we live.

Wilbraham Road, 1983 © Tom Mcgrath
"At the time that Chorlton Bookshop opened for business in May 1983, bookselling still had the slightly fusty reputation of being a 'gentlemen's profession', with many deals being sealed with handshakes and sombre promises. 

Some of these gentlemen were slightly taken aback on discovering that the manager of this new shop was a young woman. 

Vicky recalls opening accounts with publishers with handwritten letters composed in her bedroom, where she'd only recently finished revising for her A-levels.

It was a steep learning curve, too. The first order for stock books was for £40 – which sounded like at lot back in the day, but in practice it was hardly enough book to fill one shelf. 

Nowadays, as you'd expected, stock re-ordering is done electronically and transmitted via the internet. Back then, it was a case of making a mental note of what had been sold and jotting it all down when the shop went quiet.

Customers of long standing may remember back to when Vicky manned the shop with her parents, who fitted in working here around their day jobs. Between them they share vivid memories of chasing after an over-eager shoplifter with bags down Wilbraham Road towards the crossroads, and of donating books as children's presents to a group of striking miners.

Wilbraham Road, 2013, © Tom Mcgrath
One Christmas morning, Vicky heard a crash and came down to find a man lying in the window display. He'd been thrown though the window by some friends after one festive drink too many. 

Luckily he was unhurt, but this incident might help explain the presence of distinctive iron gates across the windows now. 

Vicky has devised countless (more conventional) window displays, taking in thirty Christmas specials, which have been much admired. They've even won awards, including a  trip to Acapulco.

Memorable events over the years include visits from Postman Pat's van, and Harry Potter's flying car (though road-bound on that occasion); a Second World War quiz night, with cans of Spam as prizes; and a tarot-reading evening which got so lively that the police were nearly called.

Chorlton Bookshop
We've served many famous faces, from Coronation Street stars - right back to Doris Speed, who lived nearby - to local football legend Denis Law. 

Past customers also include many Manchester music luminaries like Ian Brown, Bernard Sumner, John Bramwell, Tony Wilson and more than one ex-member of The Fall. Morrissey bought several Oscar Wilde collections from us in one go. 

Author and poet Jackie Kay has been a regular customer. Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, came in for a browse while visiting friends locally, and complimented us on our fiction range . 

And one day several members of the England cricket team, lead by David Gower, came in mob-handed, fresh from Old Trafford – in their whites – to buy an address book.

Wilbraham Road circa 1903
Ceri and Alan Johnson have indeed now retired, though they still help out with deliveries to local schools. 

After thirty years, we're now at the stage where our youngest original customers are coming in with their children. 

All things being equal, we'd love to think that we'll be around to serve their grandchildren one day."*

Pictures; Wilbraham Road, in 1985 & 2013, courtesy of Tom McGrath, Wilbraham Road in 1903 from the Lloyd Collection, and remaining photographs courtesy of Chorlton Bookshop

* Andy from Chorlton Bookshop

The last ever pictures of the Wagon & Horses in Sale

Well there is pretty much a finality in Andy Robertson’s latest picture of the Wagon and Horses in Sale taken earlier today on a grey and cold afternoon.

After centuries of serving up happy pints on sad Mondays, and sparkling G&Ts on hopeful Fridays it is now just a pile of rubble.

And for any one of the nearly 3,000 people who have followed Andy’ pictures from April last year when he first recorded the place as an empty and forlorn looking ghost pub, to earlier in the week when the scaffolding went up and Barry the bulldozer arrived here is all that is left

But I am sure Andy will be back recording the breaking of the soil followed by all the stages which will lead to that mixed retail and residential development.

Pictures; the Wagon and Horses, 2014-2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Monday, 27 April 2015

A lost envelope from 1896, Mr Waller's textile factory and Tariff and Dale in the Northern Quarter

It was this old envelope found behind a pipe at 45 Dale Street which set me going.

To Messrs Willcocks and Son, 1896
Now 45 Dale Street had been the showroom and factory of Mr Ralph Waller who was there from the mid 1850s until his death when the building appears to have been sub let to other businesses.*

And this is where William Henry Willcocks enters the story.

In 1893 the London Gazette announced the dissolution of the partnership “between William Henry Willcocks and William Dockray, carrying on business as Merchants at 45, Dale-street, in the city of Manchester, and at 9, Foster-lane, Cheapside, in the city of London, under the style or firm of Willcocks and Dockray.”**

Mr Willcocks continued trading from Dale Street occupying the building with other businesses and in the August of 1896 he received this envelope.  Sadly the contents have long since vanished but it was the start of another little story which took me to Chorlton and back to Dale Street.

Hampton House, 1893
In 1881 William Henry Willcocks was living on Edge Lane and it was there that his son Clarence Smalley married Annie Muriel Kenworthy also of Chorlton in January 1900.

I would love to have been a guest at the wedding which may well have been held at either Hampton House on Edge Lane home to Miss Kenworthy or Edgecombe House also on Edge Lane which was the home of the Willcocks.

So far no references to the wedding have come to light but both houses looked grand places and might well have hosted the reception.

Hampton House was set well back from the main road in its own grounds while Edgecombe had 14 rooms which I suspect hint that neither family skimped on the wedding.

The bale crusher, 2015
And that is not the only connection between 45 Dale Street and Chorlton, because the present owners of the building also own the Lead Station and will be opening a new bar and restaurant in Mr Waller’s warehouse.

It will be called Tariff and Dale and draws from the history of the place as I discovered yesterday when I was invited down to explore the building in its last stages of renovation and conversion.

Now it isn't often that you get to explore a building which is giving up its history.

And as I will never be on the guest list of English Heritage, when you do get a chance to crawl over a mid 19th century textile warehouse and factory in the heart of the city you just have to accept.

The logo, 2015
And there was lot to see from the weighing machine which now stands at the entrance to the bale crusher.

It would have so easy to get rid of these but given that they are part of number 45 it seems fitting that they have been retained.

As have the layers of different paint on some of the walls which tell their own story.

And with one of those nice nod’s to the history of the place, that envelope and the bale crusher have influenced the design of the menu.

But that I shall leave for people to discover when they visit Tariff & Dale which will be open form early May.

Pictures; Mr Wilcox’s envelope and logo 2105, courtesy of Tariff and Dale, detail from the OS for South Lancashire, 188-93 courtesy of Digital Archive Association, and the interior 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Dale Street,

**London Gazette, 1893,

Possibly the last time I visit the Wagon & Horses in Sale

This is not quite the end of the story of the Waggon & Horses in Sale but I rather think it must be close to the end.

The pub shut up shop over a decade ago and has been empty ever since.

Now the place clearly struck a chord with many people because the story posted a fortnight ago which reported on the appearance of scaffolding was read by 2,600 people in just a few days.*

Opinions were divided about the plans to demolish it which were approved last year as was the earlier application to build a mixed retail and residential development on the site.

There were those who lamented the loss of another pub from their past and those who while expressing sadness at its closure could see how the new development would be better than an empty building.

And now that debate all seems a tad academic.  Andy Robertson who took the earlier pictures of the pub with its scaffolding went back yesterday to discover work is well underway to reduce it to a pile of rubble.

And by now it may well have just become a hole in the ground, all of which just leaves that appeal for anyone with pictures, stories or memories of the pub to share them.

In the meantime there are a few other stories of the place which might spark some interest.**

Pictures; the Waggon & Horses, April 27 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*So it’s goodbye to the Waggon and Horses in Sale ..... closed for a decade and soon to be a hole in the ground,


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Remembering the Gallipoli Campaign in Southern Cemetery today

As part of the events to mark the centenary Gallipoli Campaign  there will be a special exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery today.

Medal awarded to Private E F Hahn who is buried in Southern Cemetery
In April 1915 British, Empire and French soldiers were landed at Gallipoli in what was seen by some as a way of breaking the deadlock on the Western Front by an assault in the Dardanelles against the Ottoman Empire.

This second front if successful would it was hoped draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on the allied side, stop the Ottoman offensive against Russia and lead to the capture of Constantinople and the exit of the Ottoman Empire from the war.

The campaign began with an allied naval bombardment in February and continued with the landing of troops in April.

Amongst the units which fought at Gallipoli were battalions from the Manchester Regiment who were landed in the summer and along with the rest of the expeditionary force were evacuated in December.

And so it is appropriate that there should be an exhibition devoted to the men of that campaign at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

The collection is a unique one covering everything from medals and letters to the simple and touching memorabilia which would have graced homes across the city.

These very personal records of the men who fought and their families have been collected by David Harrop who has mounted major exhibitions last year at Southport and Oldham.

The lodge is open from 9am - 4pm seven days a week.

Pictures; ANZAC medal of Private E F Hahn, courtesy of Margaret Cooper and the lodge  from the collection of David Harrop

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Parkside Hotel Moss Side a case of once closed a turn for the better?

Now this is the Parkside Hotel, or at least it was.

It stands on the corner of Parkside Street and Lloyd Street South and will offer up many memories of people who went there before or after a match.

It isn’t a pub I ever went in and I can’t track down its history.

I don’t know when it was built or when it closed, but I am confident that there will be peoplewho can supply the answers.

It will have been converted sometime after the last football match was played nearby.

And I have to say that its conversion to flats has saved the place and if this 1971 photograph is anything to go by has left it a cleaner and more impressive building.

Pictures; the Parkside Hotel, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson and back in 1971, Miss M Wildgoose, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Tomorrow in Southern Cemetery remembering Gallipoli

Gravestone of Private E F Hahn wounded in Gallipoli died in Manchester
As part of the events to mark the centenary Gallipoli Campaign  there will be a special exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery tomorrow.

In April 1915 British, Empire and French soldiers were landed at Gallipoli in what was seen by some as a way of breaking the deadlock on the Western Front by an assault in the Dardanelles against the Ottoman Empire.

This second front if successful would it was hoped draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on the allied side, stop the Ottoman offensive against Russia and lead to the capture of Constantinople and the exit of the Ottoman Empire from the war.

The campaign began with an allied naval bombardment in February and continued with the landing of troops in April.

Amongst the units which fought at Gallipoli were battalions from the Manchester Regiment who were landed in the summer and along with the rest of the expeditionary force were evacuated in December.

The Lodge
And so it is appropriate that there should be an exhibition devoted to the men of that campaign at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

The collection is a unique one covering everything from medals and letters to the simple and touching memorabilia which would have graced homes across the city.

These very personal records of the men who fought and their families have been collected by David Harrop who has mounted major exhibitions last year at Southport and Oldham.

The lodge is open from 9am - 4pm seven days a week.

Pictures;  from the collection of David Harrop

Friday, 24 April 2015

At Gallipoli with young Harry from Manchester and one more story from the Manchester & Salford Boys' & Girls' Refuge

"Three boys from Central House," date uknown
There will be many stories about Gallipoli over the next few months and some have already appeared in the blog.*

This week marks the landing of allied soldiers on the shores of the Ottoman Empire in the Dardanelles.

Along with units of the British Army there were men from Australia and New Zealand, Canada and India as well as France and the French Colonial Empire.

Amongst them were many from the twin cities, some who served with the Manchester’s and others with  the Royal Fusiliers, and their contribution has also featured here.**

But today I am drawn to the stories of those young men who were in the care of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuge who enlisted and in particular young Harry who served with the Marines at Gallipoli as well as Jutland and the earlier naval engagement at Heligoland Bight.

“Harry was one such marine. Born in 1892, Harry entered the Higgin’s Home in Cheetham Hill on 9th May 1903. 

Like many of the other children in the homes on George Street, Harry was an orphan. 

A few months later he transferred to the Atkinson Home where he remained for the next three years prior to returning to his elder sister’s care. 

He then joined the Indefatigable to be trained for a life in the Navy.”***

And for the rest of Harry’s story I suggest you visit the Together Trust’s blog  Harry and the Gallipoli Campaign.***

Now I am a great fan of the blog which focuses on the work of the charity and is a good starting point for anyone who wants to know about its activities as well as the wider story of how young disadvantaged people were helped.

But there is more because the archivist is most helpful in assisting those wanting to know more about their own family members who passed through organisation.

Getting down and dusty....... the blog
And for me it pretty much ticks the box.

I live here in Manchester and have a great uncle who was migrated to Canada as a British Home Child by another charity in 1914.

Sadly his records and those of his siblings one of whom was my maternal grandfather are fragmentary, and what there is can be written on one page.

So this archive is an important one and a powerful resource for those with relatives who were in care in the twin cities, not only because there may be a record of them but also because of the general background to the work of this caring organisation.****

Picture; Three boys from the Central Home, now on Active Service with the Marines, date unknown, courtesy of the Together Trust

* Gallipoli,

*The Manchester Regiment,

***Harry and the Gallipoli Campaign,

****The Together Trust,

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Queen Tika, Gene Autry and a hidden city ............. memories of Saturday Morning Pictures

I remain fascinated how one image has stayed with me for over half a century and still has the power to take me back to a Saturday morning in the Peckham Odeon .

The Thunder Guard enter the secret rock
That said it could have been the  ABC on the Old Kent Road.

So distant is the memory that I can now no longer even locate the site of the two cinemas.

But the scene where two horsemen descend into an ancient city 20,000 feet underground whose residents abandoned the surface thousands of years ago has never left me.

Saturday Morn' at the Pictures
The city had a Queen and all the political and social structure of a pre industrial society but many of the trappings of the future.

So while Queen Tika is assisted by Lord Argo, and her soldiers ride on horses, there are robots and a sinister death chamber powered by electricity.

For years I pondered on those scenes and had begun to think it was all in my imagination.

But no they were real enough and part of Phantom Empire, which ran to12 episodes and was filmed in 1935 by Mascot Films.

And I have an article by James Howard in Eagle Times to thank for bringing that memory out into the sunlight.*

The film was “an amalgamation of science fiction, and the western genre” and starred Gene Autry one of the “singing cowboys.”**

The plot was convoluted, involving an evil Professor, his equally unpleasant gang and a plan to cheat Mr Autry out of his farm which stood on a deposit of radium.

Queen Tika, a robot and Lord Argo
And in to this already twisted tale is introduced the city of Murania which along with its robots and death chamber has a bunch of very advanced scientists and a machine which can restore life.

Queen Tika is unaware of a revolution planned by Lord Argo and a group who have been saved from the death chamber and is more concerned that the outside world will discover the city.

So to foil that discovery she sends her “Thunder Guard” to the surface to pretty much have a go at anyone they come into contact with including of course Mr Autry, who in turn breaks into the city and the rest as they say will be continued.***

Now until I read Mr Howard’s article I had no idea of the plot or that it ran to a full 12 episodes, and am tempted to buy the DVD if only to explore the extent that Hollywood tried to mix the Western with science fiction against a backdrop of revolution, robots and death chambers.

In the meantime it is reassuring that another of those child hood memories is rooted in reality, even if that reality was a tad far fetched.

All of which just leaves me to explore Mascot Films, and the actress Dorothy Christy who played Queen Tika.

Mascot Films was one of those small American film companies which specialised in making film series and B westerns and is notable for producing the first film serial to use sound.  This was the King of the Kongo in 1929.

The company was formed in 1927 and merged with several other companies to form Republic Pictures in 1935.

Ms Christy was born in 1906 and her film career lasted from 1929 till 1953 and so like Mascot Films covered one of the most important periods in the history of cinema.

All of which I had no idea of as I sat in that cinema just 50 or so years ago.

Such are the twists of history.

Pictures; from Saturday Morn’ at the Pictures, reproduced in Eagle Times, 2015

* Saturday Mornin’ at the Pictures, No 2 The Phantom Empire, James Howard, Eagle Times Vol 28 No 1 Spring 2015,

**James Howard Ibid Saturday Morn’ at the Pictures

***The Phantom Empire is now available on DVD

Remembering those from Chorlton who participated in the Great War

Yesterday at the Edge on Manchester Road something rather special happened when a group of us met to begin a project to remember some of the men and women from Chorlton who participated in the Great War a century ago.

The project arose from last November’s production by the Edge Theatre Company of Opening 1914, which focused all three local people who were caught up by the events of that war.*

They were three of the “little people about to live their lives out in a great century” and it occurred to the theatre company that to look up the stories of some of the men and women who took part would be a fitting memorial.

Now none of the group are professional historians, but all of them were passionate about the project.

There were two young people who wanted to know more about a war which shaped the lives of their great grandparents, along with a few who saw it as a natural progression from researching their own family history.

And for some it will be the opportunity to explore a range of creative writing based on the lives of their chosen participant.

All of which makes the project such an exciting one for not only will each of us discover something unique, we will have had the experience of working and learning together and in the process discover a little more of the place we live.

The end result maybe an exhibition which mixes the stories with creative writing and paintings to a special one off evening of readings and performances at the Edge.**

All of which adds to the excitement.

Picture, Mr and Mrs Davison and their son, circa 1915-6 courtesy of David Harrop.  George Davison lived in Chorlton on Edge Lane before his marriage to Nellie.

*The Edge Theatre Company,

**The Edge Theare Company, . 0161 282-9776

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The War diaries of the British Army 1914-1920 .......... now online

G B Simpson, 1918
Now I can be fairly confident that none of the six members of my family who fought in the Great War left a personal diary.

So the publication of the war diaries of the British Army are the next best thing.

They were begun after the second South African War and record day by day the movements of regiments covering everything from training, routine activities to action on the front line under fire.

I first came across them when I was researching one of my great uncles who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and are available online.

But those for the British army could only be accessed by a visiting the National Archives, so the news that ancestry have now got the diaries available on line is good news.

And these include the Galliopli Campaign which just 100 years ago was in full swing.

"A fag after a fight", 1916
So according to ancestry, “these war diaries document operations for British and colonial units serving in theatres of operations between 1914 and 1920, including Russia, at home, and in the colonies, as well as British military missions and Armies of Occupation between 1919 and 1920. 

The diaries contain daily reports on operations, intelligence summaries, and other pertinent material, and they 

The range of dates shown for individual items does not mean there is a document inside the file for each day between the two covering dates.

No diaries for the campaign in South West Africa in 1914-1915 are included in this series because no British units participated; operations were conducted under the auspices of the South African armed forces.”

Pictures; George Simpson, circa 1918 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and "A Fag After a Fight,” Daily Mail War Postcards, 1916, courtesy of David Harrop

Barlow Hall and its occupants, ............ from the Barlow family to the Radical Thomas Walker, on to the Whig Shakepeare Phillips and finally William Cunliffe Brooks friend of Chorlton and a banker

Barlow Hall is old and while there may have been a building on the site dating from the Middle Ages, the present half timbered structure dates probably from the reign of Henry VIII. Little of the original structure was visible by the 1840s.

Most of the timber work had been covered in plaster or hidden under ivy. The old great hall which occupied most of the building and open to the roof had been divided off to create two stories, with the lower floor given over to three entertaining rooms.

The Barlow’s had settled here by the fourteenth century, appear to have lived a quiet existence until like many they were caught up in the conflicts over religion in the sixteenth century. They had adhered to the old faith and been persecuted during the reign of the first Elizabeth.

The family continued to live at the Hall until the last died in 1773 and the estate was sold to the Egerton’s twelve years later.

During the later part of the eighteenth century and into the next it had been home of the radical Thomas Walker, and later to the leading Whig businessman Shakepeare Phillips and in June 1848 to William Cunliffe Brooks.

According to various observers Cunliffe Brooks was keen not only to preserve the building but to share his love of the hall. This interest never appeared to have left him and led Mrs C Williamson to write in her Recollections of Fallowfield, that his “love for old things is so great that every relic is sacred to him, and even mindful alterations are made in such close imitation of old, they look the real thing.”

This was a passion which was to lead him to display a piece of the original timber which had been exposed after a fire in 1879,and own Chorlton historian may well have been speaking from firsthand experience when he advised that “Mrs Brook’s morning room is worthy of a visit, with its quaint old china, and the vestibule containing some fine old Furniture and an engraving of Wellington with his autograph.”

Each of the families will feature of the next few weeks.

Picture; Barlow Hall from the collection of Rita Bishop

At the Bulls Head on London Road

Now here is one of those nice coincidences.

Only last weekend we were down on London Road.

I wanted to have another look at the old Fire Station and the site of the Twisted Wheel along with Bert’s Cafe which dispensed a pretty neat sausage sandwich which took the place of breakfast and tasted all the better because we were missing the first lecture of the day at the College of Commerce.

And of course hard by is the Bulls’ Head which that excellent site Pubs of Manchester told me “had opened in 1786, when the licensee was Maria Lowcock.

In the late 1800s and in much more recent times in the 1990s it used to keep modest opening hours in the evenings only. 

Now owned by the Marstons group, who acquired Burtonwood in the '80s. 
Pedigree and Banks are usually always on, together with four or five other guest ales. Certainly worth a trip for the more discerning beer drinker.”*

It being early morning I judged it was not yet time to slide across the door step so instead here is Peter’s painting of the place.

In the fullness of time I think I shall call in as part of the continuing projects to record the pubs of Manchester in advance of that book of the same name.

Painting;  The Bulls Head, London Road,  © 2014 Peter Topping
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

*Bulls Head, London Road,

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

On washing a Nokia 6310

Today I washed my phone.

It was of course not prompted by a desire to give it a clean or even to test out how a fifteen year old Nokia hand set survives a 54 minute number 3 wash cycle.

It was instead just a daft mistake and is really a reminder of how checking in the pockets is a sensible thing to do.

And of course it raises again just how much we have all become reliant on these hand held communication devices.

Now using a telephone box won’t be that much of a hassle but I fear that for a while at least I shall be deaf to the world added to which we will have to make arrangements when we are both out in town as to where we will meet and when, rather than rely on a quick call.

Not that this will be that much of a chore it is after all how have we all got by before the mobile.

A little of me wonders whether given its very basic nature my Nokia might just come through after a long period in the sun.

In the meantime I could revert to my Nokia 3310* which has the added advantage that its battery lasts forever, it bounces when you drop it and it plays Snake.

Alternatively perhaps it is time to explore smart phones, which because they are bigger than my Nokia are less likely to be forgotten in a pocket on wash day.

We shall see.

Picture; Nokia 6310, 2015 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Story of a Nokia 3310,

Looking at the Great War from New Zealand with a nod to this Sunday's remembrance event in Southern Cemetery

A G Webber remembered in  Southern Cemetery
It is easy to view events from a European perspective; after all I was born in Britain, and have family in Italy and a grandmother who was born in Germany.

All of which means I tend to see the Great War as a European tragedy, more so because it and the war that followed were in a sense a family civil war for us.

So while I can count on six immediate members who fought in the first of those world wars and two in the second, I know that there were also some who fought in the armed forces of Imperial Germany and three who stare back at me in German army uniforms from 1938.

But that is to ignore that both conflicts were really world wars which saw the fighting spread out to other continents as well as the oceans of the world and drew in men and women from everywhere.

And so it is fitting at a time when we remember the fighting at Gallipoli and the contributions made by the ANZAC forces and French colonial regiments that I focus on the feelings of one group in New Zealand in 1916.

Now the date is important for the conflict was now into its second full year and much of the optimism of a short war had vanished under the weight of the casualties on the Western Front, and the Middle East along with those on the high seas.

In Auckland at the University there was much to ponder on, ranging from those amongst the staff and students who had enlisted, to all manner of shortages.

And so in the August of 1916 the editor of the college magazine was in reflective mood commenting that

“Looking back over the last twenty months we cannot but be struck at the change that has come over the College. 

This change is none the less noticeable for the fact that it seems scarcely a definite alteration in any specific thing or things, but rather a feeling that we are not the same as we were a short time ago.

We do not hesitate to ascribe this feeling-this atmosphere of change-to the war and its direct effect upon us.  

And when we think of the number of students who were with us a few months ago and who are now thousands of miles away taking part in the great world-struggle that is convulsing Europe, do we wonder that the College is not as it used to be?”*

That said the College while it had seen some of its members go off to fight had received new students, so that in one sense the editor could say that in sheer numbers the place was much as it was.

But the College was missing many of its experienced and older members, added to which most of the magazine was given over to photographs of those who had left and descriptions of what had happened to them.

Some had died others invalided home and most were still far.

And that is what makes this magazine such a powerful insight into the impact of the war on New Zealand.

The numbers at the college may not have been big and we are dealing with a very small community but for me it is the start of the journey into discovering how other people thought about that war fought out on my continent.

And that is perhaps the point to draw attention again to this Sunday when David Harrop will be in attendance at the Remembrance Lodge on Sunday April 26 which houses his collection of memorabilia from both world wars, but given that this is the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign David will have items which reflect the campaign.**

Pictures; Lance Corporal Alleyne Gordon Webber, 1914 and R W Lambert, 1914 from The Kiwi, The Auckland University Magazine

*The Kiwi, The Auckland University Magazine, August, 1916, Vol 11,

**New Zealand,

Monday, 20 April 2015

On rediscovering that the Postal Order still exists and pondering on the telegram, the trunk call and the big red telephone box

Three in a row, 2012, Knaresborough
I am always fascinated at the little bits of my past which have long since vanished.

And yesterday I was reminded of a shedful that have gone out with the tide.

It began with a phone call from our Joshua asking about Postal Orders.

Now I had to confess that I thought that they had long since ceased to exist.

In an age of PayPal, and card transactions with the persistent rumours that the cheque will soon go I just expected that the Postal Order had had its day.

When I was growing up and fewer people had bank accounts it was the most effective way of buying things through the post.

Postal Order, 1939
You bought it over the counter for the amount you needed, sent it by through the  mail and it was cashed at another post office.

And according to the Post Office it remains a simple way to send money, which can be used wherever you are to pay bills, and shop by mail order and offers peace of mind because there is no personal data required.*

What’s more it costs as little as 50p.

Not so the telegram which was a way of sending and receiving messages relatively cheaply and quickly but which died in stages after 139 years.

In the 1930s the Post Office was delivering on average 65 million telegrams per year.  But by the 1960s this had fallen to 10 million and by 1976 to just 844.*

Telegram, 1914
The decision to abolish the service was taken in 1977 and although the service lingered for a bit longer it was stopped in 1982.

That said I do not ever remember receiving one but then we had a telephone quite early in my childhood and that I suspect replaced the need for people to send us telegrams, although thinking about it I doubt that anything much exciting ever necessitated us getting one.

Not for that matter can I remember the telephone ever being used that much.  It was one of those solid black Bakelite affairs with a little tray which pulled out to reveal a space for telephone numbers.

And while I cannot remember our Co-op divi number or pretty much any subsequent telephone numbers, NEW 6251 leaps out of my memory.

Postal Dinky toys, pre 1939
But it is a measure of how far we have travelled with technology that back in the 1950s we had to share the line with another customer, and if on the rare occasion they were using the party line you could if you so chose listen into the conversation.

That simple incontinence became of course a superb device on the part of film makers and authors to advance a plot be it a sinister overheard threat or in the case of Doris Day and Rock Hudson an invitation to a sting of absurd story lines.***

Of course the party line is for most of us as remote as the delightful “trunk call” which resurfaced today in a blog by my friend Lois. ****

Toy postal Van, 1914
In those early years of telephones the only way a customer could call someone listed on another exchange was by asking the operator to connect them and this was a “truck call.”

In its way it was as much a special event as making the “long distance call” and today both sound old fashioned a tad quaint.

Much as I suspect is the red telephone box  which while it does still exist is now fast disappearing.

They first appeared in 1920 mushroomed in the telephone war of the 1980s and are now fading like snow in the winter sun.

But they are for another time.

Pictures; three red telephone boxes, 2012, Knaresborough from the collection of Andrew Simpson, telegram, 1914, Postal Order, 1939 and pre war Dinky Toys and mail van, circa 1914 courtesy of David Harrop

*Postal Order, the Post Office,

**Telegram messenger,,

***Pillow Talk, 1959

****Trunk Call,

On coming across the Daily Express Building on Great Ancoats Street

Now here is an opportunity I will never be able to take advantage of.

On offer "to let or for sale", ...... the Express Building on Great Ancoats Street.

Peter Topping came across the sign yesterday and as they say the rest became a series of paintings.

The Daily Express building  is an iconic and to my mind exciting building.

It was finished in 1939, listed in 1974 and was until the 1980s still a place where newspapers were printed.

On one of those wet winter afternoons as the light finally gave up on Manchester there was something pretty impressive at turning onto Great Ancoats Street and seeing the place lit up.

I could go on but there are plenty of very good accounts of its history so I shall leave you with Peter’s paintings and a memory of my parents who quietly but doggedly disagreeed about the newspapers that should fall through the door.

Dad preferred the Express and if pushed might opt for the Daily Mail.

Mother always muttered darkly about both having little time for the political causes they espoused.

As for me I was always intrigued by the  chained Crusader in red which sat along the top of the paper, but like mum when it came to it I settled for the Guardian.

Of course by the time I washed up in Manchester in 1969 the paper had long since dropped Manchester from its title.  I guess that should have been a hint at things to come.

The presses stopped rolling in the Express building in the 1980s and at Withy Grove in 1986 leaving the first to become offices and flats and the second to morph into an entertainments complex.

That said you can still buy a paper at the Print Works so perhaps that will be Peter's next subject.

Painting;  Express Building Manchester,  © 2015 Peter Topping
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Friday, 17 April 2015

Walking four hundred years of Chorlton’s history

Just over four hundred years ago the Mosley family finished their grand new family home at Hough End Hall.

And to celebrate that event along with the launch of  Hough End Hall The Story* which is the first serious book on the hall and the people who lived and worked there you are invited to walk a bit of our history.

In 1596 the Mosley’s could look out west across open land to Barlow Moor Lane and if they were minded ride over to the small chapel by Chorlton Green.

Of course in the four centuries since then the place has changed but until relatively recently much of what was familiar to old Sir Nicholas Mosley was still pretty much the same.

In the summer of 1848 the Brook still meandered on its lazy course out towards the Mersey helping supply the needs of the small community that lived around St Clements church and the majority of the people in the township continued to earn their living from farming.

By then the Hall had become home to the Lomas family who farmed over 200 acres and employed ten agricultural labourers.  Many of these are known to us by name and most lived with the family.

Of the ten living there in 1841 six were 15 or younger, another three were twenty and only Michael Rustage was in his mid 30s.

All of them would have been familiar with the route we shall take which will start at the hall and move on through Chorlton Park and Barlow Moor Road, down Beech Road and then by degree north to Manchester Road, Ash Tree Cottage and the old finger post ending at the Lloyds Hotel.

Along the way we will learn about who lived here what they did above all who in that summer of 1848 we would have to be polite to.

And my old friend David Bishop has agreed to join us.

David is a botanist and he will talk about the plant life we might have encountered back then and will reveal at least one surprise flower which may have once been grown by Sarah Sutton who lived in a wattle and daub cottage on Beech Road in the 1850s.

Having started at the Hall in 1596 we will finish at the Lloyd’s Hotel built in 1870 and a fine place to reflect on those 400 years and to view the exhibition on its history and the campaign to buy the building and transform it into a place for the community to use.

So that is pretty much it.

The events are part of Chorlton Arts Festival and there will be two walks, the first on Sunday May 17 and the second on May 24 and both start at 1pm and both  are free

Nor is that all because for those that want a tad more history you are also invited to the book launch of Hough End Hall The Story which will be at the Lloyds on Saturday May 16 starting at 7.30, where you can meet the authors, buy a signed copy of the book and enjoy a performance of the music and songs familiar to our farm labourers in the 1840s.

Pictures; Chorlton Park in 2009 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, cover of the book, Hough End Hall The Story

*Hough End Hall .......... the book.......... coming soon,

Thursday, 16 April 2015

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 56 ............ when to call in the sweep

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

Now I wonder when Joe and Mary Ann called time on the open fire for the year and got the sweep in.

Judging by this April I reckon it would still be not yet, for while we can have those sunny even hot days the nights can be cold, and unlike us they did not have central heating.

That said these days with all the children gone we often just heat the one room and on cold nights  just make a dash for the bedroom when the night is finished.

I suspect like us it will have been another month before they gave up the open fires and called in the sweep.

Back in  1911 there were sixty-three sweeps in the city and we had three.

There was Henry Thomas at number 3 Vicars Rd, Charles Morris, at 12 Sandy Lane and Henry Thomas at 4 Brownhill Buildings, Sandy Lane.

This surprised me given the predominance of coal for heating, and the very real need to keep them swept to avoid chimney fires.

Originally the job was done with brushes and I can still remember the sweep at home pushing the broom up and around the chimney, sweeping the soot clear until finally the brush appeared at top poking out of the chimney.

Today the business is done with a vacuum cleaner although John who does ours still uses a brush at the start, but this is more to do with checking which flu goes where.

So I think we will be making that call soon, after all once the fires are finished with it makes sense to clean them straight away or on those very hot days you run the risk of a smelly chimney.

And as everyone leaves it to the last moment finding an appointment with John can get tricky once September is nearly over.

So we have booked John and Acorn  Chimney Sweeping Services for the end of May.**

Now Joe and Mary Ann were very forward thinking people and they would have invested in some of the first electric fires, so for them like us I rather think as April gives way to May the moment will have arrived to call time on the coal man and the fire and wait for John to arrive.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of a house,

**Acorn Chimney Sweeping Services,

So it’s goodbye to the Waggon and Horses in Sale ..... closed for a decade and soon to be a hole in the ground

The Waggon & Horses 2014
It was just under a year ago that Andy Robertson wandered in to Sale and snapped the Waggon and Horse.*

It had closed sometime around 2003 and has stood empty ever since.

Now I have yet to track the pub back to its beginning, but it was there in 1875 and just over a hundred years later made a stir by replacing the electric pumps with the traditional hand pumps and barrel and sold real ale.

Both Andy and I pondered on its future.  Its last landlord had confirmed it had been sold to a developer but that was it.

The Waggon & Horses, 2015
Andy passed it yesterday and it was clear something was happening, and not just to the old pub for along the road the same tell tale scaffolding and netting obscured the neighbouring building.

And a search of the Trafford Planning applications revealed that in February of this year there had been an application for the “Demolition of the Waggon and Horses Public House together with Nos. 137-145 Cross Street and all light industrial buildings to the rear.”*

And next door today
Now as yet there is no indication of what will replace the buildings but I guess when Andy next passes there will just be a hole in the ground.

That said not long after I posted the story, someone dug out a planning application from five years ago which applied for the demolition of the existing buildings to replaced by a mix of retail, commercial and residential properties.***

The application was approved in November 2010.

And next door a year ago
So I guess Andy will not have to look at a hole in the ground for long.  On the other hand given that he passes the spot regularly I rather think we may have a new photographic project about to begin as Andy chronicles the development of the site.

Pictures; The Waggon and Horses and neighbouring buildings in 2014 and 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

* Thinking about the fate of the Waggon and Horses in Sale a decade and a bit since it stopped serving,