Saturday, 30 May 2015

Uncovering the story of Joseph Thomas of Chorlton born 1894, died 1917 on the Western Front

Joseph Thomas and men of the 2nd City Battalion 1914-1915
It began with this postcard and as so often happens it set me off on a journey which led from a small house in Chorlton to the grand offices of an accountancy firm opposite the Town Hall and ended on the Western Front.

The postcard comes from the collection of David Harrop and was one of a number I have been looking at.*

What caught my attention was that it was sent to Henry Thomas who lived at number 6 Fairhaven Avenue and was sent in the March of 1916.

Cooper Street, circa 1900
Now Mr Thomas was a chimney sweep and had grown up around the corner in Brownhills Buildings on Sandy lane.

These pre date 1832 and were once the property of Mr Brownhill who had been the wheelwright for the township.

That in itself was a fascinating link with our past but the postcard and its message drew me even deeper into the history of Chorlton.

It was from Joseph Thomas who was Henry's brother thanking him for the letter and Postal Order which “I was glad to receive [as] I was getting rather hard up” and announced that he was coming “home as usual on Saturday 2.15 at Victoria,” adding “send a pc if you are meeting me.”

17th Platoon, E Company 2nd City Battalion, 17th Manchester's 1914-16
Joseph had been born in 1894 and in 1914 was working for Richard Haworth & Co Ltd who had offices at 19 Cooper Street.

The building has long gone but it faced the Town Hall close to where the Cenotaph now stands.

Sadly his army records no longer exist but I know he enlisted in the 17th Manchester’s at the outbreak of the war and was stationed at Heaton Park before leaving for France in the November of 1915.

In time I will track his movements and the battles he fought in.

And we as these things go only hours after posting the story Stephen O'Neill replied identifying Joseph as the young man on "the top row far left" which is a powerful note to close on.

Sadly Joseph was killed on August 1 1917.

Picture, postcard dated, March 22 1916, and E Company 17th Service Battalion, the 2nd City Battalion, Manchester Regiment, from Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour,  from the collection of David Harrop, detail of 19 Cooper Street, 1900 from Goads Insurance Map, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*David Harrop,

Never turn down the chance to walk the past ......... trips we did and ones we have yet to do

There is something pretty magical about walking the history of a place.

Outside Hough End Hall, built in 1596, on a May day in 2015
And it works on a number of different levels.

First there are the stories of the people and the places which are all the more vivid because you are there where they were and with just a little imagination it’s possible to touch their past.

All the better when what you can see is still almost exactly what was there a century and a half ago.

Added to all this is the opportunity to ask questions and in the process go down avenues of discovery which might not be available from a book or those increasingly popular virtual trips.

And above all you get to meet people.

At Brookfield House an elegant 18th residence, 2015
So last Sunday over 50 of us set off from Hough End Hall to walk through the Chorlton of the 1840s finishing at the Lloyds which was hosting an exhibition on the house Sir Nicholas Mosley built in 1596 and which in its 400 years has been a status symbol, a farm house and latterly a restaurant and even a set of offices.

During the two hours that we strolled across the old township we talked about the Mosley fish pond the much believed set of tunnels leading away from the hall and just who in 1847 you would have to be polite too.

Amongst those on the first of the two Hough End Hall walks was Steve Roman who leads groups around the  Manchester Peace and Social Justice.

Steve has kindly offered to lead a walk as a fund-raiser for the Friends of Hough End Hall which in his own words

“I helped put together and I now lead groups around the Trail on a bespoke basis, including for the Manchester Histories Festival, for Chester Civic Trust, for post-grad students and international visitors to the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute and for the annual Peace History Conference and other conferences. I also lead the walk as a fund-raiser for voluntary groups, most recently for War on Want, Manchester Community Choir and the Ancoats Dispensary Trust.

The Peace Statue, 1986
The tour usually lasts 2 ½ hours but is flexible to suit your group’s requirements, and can cover sites connected with the growth of Manchester as the world’s first industrial city and its importance as a centre for radical political activity, including
• Peterloo and the popular reform movement
• The Free Trade Hall, suffragettes to the Sex Pistols
• Abraham Lincoln, Manchester Cathedral and the campaign against slavery
• The Hidden Gem and religious tolerance
• Migration and the movement of peoples
• Alan Turing and gay rights
• Historic libraries and public art”

And for those who want to sample a walk   before booking with Steve there are two up coming ones which are open to all, both starting  at Victoria Station under the tiled map and finish at Piccadilly Gardens .

Sunday 31 May, 1.30 – 4.30: Cost £5 (£3 concessions). All proceeds go to Manchester Friends of the Earth.

Pay on the day or email if you would like to book, or to find out more.

Sunday 7 June, 1.00 – 4.00: Tickets are priced at £7 (£5 concessions). All proceeds will go to Amnesty International.

The walk will end at Gullivers in the Northern Quarter, where people can enjoy a cup of tea, sign some appeal cards, and find out more about the Stop Torture campaign,

Steve Roman
0161 434 2908

Pictures;On the Hough End Hall walk, Sunday May 24, 2015 from the collection of Peter Topping, and Peace Statue, in the former Peace Garden, 1986, m58455, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Unlocking a little of the history of Nu 50 Newton Street

Now this is one of those buildings I never tire looking at.

Number 50 Newton Street, 2015
It is number 50 Newton Street which according to that excellent book on Manchester “was built for a hat manufacturer by C Clegg & Son in 1907.  

Baroque, strikingly designed to maximise light with giant-three-story glazed arcades on the three exposed sides.” *

All of which I suspect must have made Mr Wood and his four sons  very proud of their new building which replaced an earlier warehouse from where they had traded from at least 1895.

In that year they rented a substantial building from Mr Abraham Howarth with a rateable value of £417 which dwarfed the neighbouring properties which included more warehouses and photographers which was to become the Kensington Inn.

Number 50 Newton Street in 1895
And there I think the mystery begins because by 1909 the Wood’s are no longer in residence in this fine baroque building and instead the property is occupied by 18 different businesses which two years later has risen to 29 which I suspect will be the pattern for the rest of that century.

So the search is on for the Woods and by extension some of the other businesses which operated from number 50.

Number 50 Newton Street in 1909
The first port of call will be the directories for 1907 and 08 followed up by any references to their business in company records.

Sadly at present the Manchester Rate Books stop at 1900 which closes down that avenue of research.

But I do know a Joseph Wood married an Esther Bibby in 1814 and a James Bibby Wood was living in Withington in 1891.

So I rather think we shall be returning to number 50 which Peter painted recently.

I am hoping there are more to come because this part of the city is changing very quickly and some at least of the buildings in the Northern Quarter which I have taken for granted are undergoing renovation and change of use while some may disappear forever.

And part of that change has exposed the side of number 50 showing that it was built with an inner courtyard which until recently was hidden from view.

In time I hope more of its secrets will come to light.

Well we shall see.

Painting; No 50 Newton Street, © 2015 Peter Topping
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Pictures; from the Slater’s Manchester, Salford, & Suburban Directory, 1895 &1909 

**Manchester, Clare Hartwell, 2008 page 221

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Somewhere, sometime before the Great War, pictures with secrets

Sometimes a picture stubbornly refuses to give up its secrets.  

And yes I know it is daft to liken a photograph to a person but this is how I feel every time I try give it location or a date.

We are sometime in the first decade or so of the last century.  Yet until someone can up with more I am stumped.

But that doesn’t stop the picture providing us with a wonderful amount of detail.

Judging by the number of people without coats we must be on a warm summer’s day and yet there is still a formality about the dress of everyone in the scene.

The women wear hats the boys have those classic Edwardian suits with the large white collars and the little girl has that familiar smock and bonnet.

And as if to remind us of how far we are from today there is not a motor car in sight.  Waiting by the level crossing is a horse and cart, while away by the station and lined up to collect passengers from the train are a variety of traps and carriages.

Where ever we are it is in part a working area.  Beyond the railway line and partly hidden by the station box is a factory.

But of all the detail it is the pram and the children that draw you in.

I doubt today whether any of us would be comfortable at leaving a baby and the young girl in the charge of two lads not yet more than ten and leaving them so close to the railway and factory.

Of course their parents may be just out of the shot and like the dog on the other side of the road about to make an appearance.

Sadly I will never know.

Picture; from the collection of Alan Brown.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Laying the tramtrack along Barlow Moor Road in the summer of 1911

Now I can never get enough of those old Manchester Corporation trams which served the city for almost half a century.

They are a topic I keep returning to whether it is the story of catching one up by Southern Cemetery in 1915 or the much awaited extension in to Chorlton from Whalley Range*.

And here is another from my friend Sally who came across this picture of men laying tram track in 1911 along Barlow Moor Road.

I can’t be exactly sure where we are.
The caption just says “Manchester City tramways are being extended along Barlow Moor Road to the Southern Cemetery” which could be pretty much anywhere from the Brook up to the cemetery.

But if the house to the left of the road is Brookfield House we will be somewhere just beyond Cundiff Road.

Brookfield House is still there in Chorlton Park although only a little of it is still in residential use.

If that is so then the buildings in the far distance will be Chorlton.

Of course it might be wrong, Brookfield seems closer in this picture but then before Chorlton Park was laid out in the 1920s this was just open land and the distance may be deceptive.

I shall await the debate.

In the meantime I am fascinated by the construction methods, which will not have changed that much from when the navvies laid the first railway track or the earlier gangs dug out the canals.

It was still a a process of hard manual labour using physical strength, with shovels pick axes and hand carts.

But as the picture shows the track edged ever closer to the cemetery and within in two years the line had reached Didsbury offering people of the twin townships a circular route into and out of town.

Picture; TRAMWAY EXTENSION AT CHORLTON, 1911, Manchester Courier, courtesy of Sally Dervan

*Waiting for the tram at Southern Cemetery in the summer of 1915,
A new tram service for Chorlton, ........... at the railway station in the summer of 1913, from the series Chorlton Trams,

Monday, 25 May 2015

Stories of the Library Theatre, its new home and the Public Hall in Chorlton

I went looking for pictures of the Library Theatre but so far have come up with just two.

Home, May 2015
Now given that the company performed in the basement of Central Ref from 1952 I would have thought I would have found more.

It was a theatre I enjoyed going to.

Unlike the Royal Exchange which was stunning and the Opera House where you could suffer from vertigo if you went cheap, the Library Theatre was small and intimate and quite special.

So while it was a traditional theatre you were never far from the actors and the action and that counted for a lot.

During the 40 years I went there you never quite forgot that this was a municipal enterprise.

It was built in 1934 as a lecture theatre and became the home of the Library Theatre which was run by the Libraries Committee from 1952.

The Lecture Theatre, 1934
I have a vague memory that during the interval in the early 70s they played a light show on to the safety curtain using what I think was a variation of a larva lamp.

Now I might be wrong on that but the place was distinctively different from your run of the mill commercial theatres.

It started with its location in the Ref which meant that your first introduction to the theatre was entering the library past those impressive columns and moving through the Shakespeare Hall and down that sweep of stairs.

And on a slow night in the large Social Sciences Room when the studying was not going well we sometimes drifted down to see if there were seats available.

First Street, May 2015
Usually we were successful and would sit in the cafe area as the last of the students departed to be replaced by the theatre set.

And now it has gone but having said that has not travelled far for in conjunction with the Corner House it will reopen at Home on First Street.

This looks an exciting new place and all credit to the City Council for helping push the project through with the same vision that saw them build Central Ref eighty one years ago and create the Library Theatre in 1952.

The Conservative Club and Public Hall, 1908
And that in turn made me thing of the Public Hall here in Chorlton in what was the Conservative Club on Wilbraham Road.

This too was a bold stroke and offered a venue for everything from amateur dramatics to political speakers and campaigns which in some cases ran contrary to the political views of the Con Club. Victor Grayson Socialist MP for Colne Valley spoke in the hall in 1908 and was heckled by members of the public, some I suspect who had made their way up from the Club below.

A number of drama groups also performed here along with a young John Thaw.*

The architects were Darbyshire and Smith, who very well known especially for building theatres including the Palace in Manchester) and pubs like the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road.   The front entrance went into the Conservative Club and a side entrance on Manchester Road went upstairs to the Public Hall which had a stage." 

Pictures; The Home May 2015 from the collection of Mike Lever, the lecture Theatre, Central Ref, 1934, Kemsley Studios, m81032, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the Conservative Club and Public Hall, Chorlton 1908 from the Lloyd Collection

* John Thaw, 1942 –2002) was an English actor, who appeared in a range of television, stage and cinema roles, his most popular being television series such as Redcap, The Sweeney, Home to Roost, Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC.

** from Lawrence Beedle,

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Today at Hough End Hall .......... the walk covering all you wanted to know about the Hall and Chorlton in 1849 ...... now that's a zippy title

Hough End Hall. 1849
Now here is an opportunity to step back just under 170 years and test your skills of observation.

Here is Hough End Hall as it appeared in 1849 and all you have to do is turn up today at the Hall on Nell Lane at 1 pm and compare this fine engraving with what you can see.

And when you have ticked off all the differences you can listen to the talk on the Hall’s 400 years of history and then walk to the Lloyds on a trip back in time.

This is the second of the talks and walks during Chorlton Arts Festival focusing on Hough End Hall and its place in the local community.

Walking down the Row to the Horse & Jockey, 1845
Once Hough End’s past has been done we will set off west across Chorlton to recreate the township as it might have been in 1849, a mix of what you could have seen and more importantly who you would have to be polite to.

And given that we were a small rural community made up of agricultural labourers, some farmers and a few tradesmen some of us at least would have been doffing our hats to Mr Cunliffe Brooks wealthy resident of Barlow Hall and generous benefactor, along with Mr Holt of Beech House, and of course the local clergy.

Sutton's Cottage, 1892
Now I have never had any illusions of my place in the pecking order of 1849 and considering I come from a long line of agricultural labourers I reckon I would have been nodding to them and to the local farmers who held the prospect of regular employment.

Once that was done I rather think I might have sat outside my wattle and daub cottage just like Mrs Sutton’s which stood on the corner of Beech and Wilton Road from the late 18th century till 1894.

But I get ahead of myself.  The walk will pass her house, take in much more and finish at the Lloyds with the exhibition showing off the story of the Hall.

So this Sunday, at 1 pm outside Hough End Hall you can have your free trip back into the past and of course buy a copy of the book Hough End Hall The Story with all profits going to the campaign to buy the hall and turn it into a community asset.*

And you can download the walk guide at

Pictures;  Hough End Hall in 1849, from The Family Memoirs, Sir Oswald Mosley, 1849, the map of the township in 1845 from the OS of Lancashire 1845, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, and Mrs Sutton’s cottage, circa 1892 reproduced from a photograph by Barri Sparshot 2011

*Hough End Hall The Story

The Real Lives of Roman Britain ............. one to read

I have never lost my fascination for Roman history, and so I am looking forward to reading The Real Lives of Roman Britain by Guy De La Bedoyere.*

According to the publishers Mr De la Bédoyère “introduces Fortunata the slave girl, Emeritus the frustrated centurion, the grieving father Quintus Corellius Fortis, and the brilliant metal worker Boduogenus, among numerous others. 

Through a wide array of records and artifacts, the author introduces the colourful cast of immigrants who arrived during the Roman era while offering an unusual glimpse of indigenous Britons, until now nearly invisible in histories of Roman Britain.”

Anyone who watched Time Team will be familiar with Mr De la Bédoyère who was a regular contributor as well appearing in other programmes and writing a series of books.

And this is my sort of history.

Added to which I ordered it up from Chorlton Book Shop which can be guaranteed to   get it for you the following day.

Now I could have course slipped back and used Amazon but unless you shop locally you lose the shop so I reckon this way we all win.

Picture; cover from The Real Lives of Roman Britain

* The Real Lives of Roman Britain,  Guy De La Bedoyere, Yale University, £20

** Chorlton Book Shop,

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Lost images of Whalley Range part 10............ the Imperial at Brooks's Bar

There will be those who mutter darkly that the Imperial was not in Whalley Range, but I bet plenty of people will have crossed over the road and spent time there.

And as the smaller picture houses around Whalley Range closed this was an obvious local choice with that added attraction that if you were old enough there was the Whalley Hotel for afterwards.

Now I have written about the old Imperial Cinema at Brooks Bar a couple of times focusing on its history, its final closure and some fascinating pictures of the interior and given that it was always deemed to be superior to its near neighbour near the old Carriage Works it deserves to be included.

Of course some will have opted for the three picturehouses in Chorlton or made a night of it and headed into town but the local cinema like the local pub had its attractions.

Pictures; the Imperial in 1980, m09229, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and today from the collection of Andy Robertson, with a thank you to Imperial Timber 166-172 Chorlton Road Manchester M16 7WW‎ 0161 226 9190

*The Imperial Cinema,

Always have a bit of fun with the past .......... a 400 year old story, the Beech Band and 1066

Now I have always liked my history with a dash of fun.

The Beech Band and the book, May 2015
I fell across Horrible Histories when they first came out and fondly remember that much earlier lampoon of all things historical which was 1066 and All That.

But that fun extends beyond the flippant and clever to nights when the story of the past comes together with a band of local musicians who make a memorable night.

And that was the book launch at the Lloyds which drew attention to Hough End Hall The Story.*

The book tells the story of the Hall over the last 400 years and the people who have been part of its history and was written to support the campaign to buy the building and convert it into a venue for community use.

All of which is well documented on the blog, so instead I shall wander off and reflect on how folk music can bring a period to life.

Listen to a sea shanty and you could be with the men of Nelson’s navy preparing for Trafalgar.

A little bit of historical fun
While those bitter angry songs of handloom weavers and textile workers pitch you into the Industrial Revolution with its heady promise of a different world where all things were possible.

But a world which existed against a backdrop of poverty and the exploitation of those doomed to live out short lives in awful conditions with only the workhouse to look forward to.

And last Saturday evening that was what we got when the Beech Band agreed to perform in aid of Hough End Hall.**

The songs came quick and fast and drew in customers from other parts of the pub which was a tribute to the group and got the message of the campaign out to a wider audience.

All of which leaves me to reflect on 1066 and All That published in 1930 which claimed that it was “A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things,5 Bad Kings, and 2 Genuine Dates.”

Of course it relied on the fact that you knew your historical knowledge and could appreciate the gentle humour which recorded that “Henry VII was very good at answering the Irish Question, and made a Law called Poyning's Law by which the Irish could have a Parliament of their own, but the English were to pass all the Acts in it. This was obviously a very Good Thing,” and that King John was a bad King because he "lost his temper and flung himself on the floor, foaming at the mouth and biting the rushes" 

Not to be out done there is a chapter headed "Williamanmary: England Ruled by an Orange" and the simple observation that “The American War of Independence was the only war the British ever lost, because the Allies were on the other side.”

So less a serious piece of history and more that bit of fun which is what a all of us should do more of.

And on that note I shall conclude with a reminder that the second  Hough End Hall history walk will be this Sunday, starting at the Hall at 1 pm and will gently cross Chorlton to the Lloyds where we will end up at the exhibition telling more of the story.

Along the way this free walk and talk will cover some of the dark deeds that happened in the township a bit about the hall and lots more about the people who lived here ............. all of which will be fun.

And those who like to be prepared the guide book can be downloaded at

Pictures; Saturday May 16 in the Lloyds Hotel with a band and a book and lots of fun, courtesy of Pierre Grace, and title cover from 1066 and All That Penguin edition circa 1930 from an article from Rotten Books

*A new book on Hough End Hall

**Folk Songs & Tunes with The Beech Band,

***Rotten Book,

Friday, 22 May 2015

Stepping back and looking at the work of a charity for children in 1890 ............ another story from the Together Trust

The Christian Worker, news and more
I am fascinated at how those charities involved in helping young people during the 19th and 20th centuries  worked and in particular the methods they employed to raise funds and awareness of what they were doing.

So this week’s post from the Together Trust is a timely contribution to my understanding.*

As the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges it had from 1870 been engaged in helping destitute children and by degree moved into providing homes, occupational training and holiday breaks for the young people in its charge.

At the same time it campaigned against child exploitation and was involved in the prosecution of neglectful parents.

All of which required money and so this week’s blog post from the Together Trust is timely because it focuses on just how the charity set about raising awareness of its work and in particular how people could make a financial contribution.

A very practical way of explaining their work
Now there will be nothing that is unfamiliar to anyone who has been involved in similar PR exercises today but some may find just how modern their methods were.

Like other charities it started with a regular newsletter which gave detailed information on what it was doing including the success stories which often featured pictures of children before and after they had been taken in.

And amongst all these were those very practical explanations of what a donation would pay for.

Looking at them today is to get a sense and scope of the work of just one of those charities engaged in helping our young people a century and a bit ago.

Now that is all I am going to say instead I just point you to the link and leave it at that.**

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust

* Together Trust,

** Children’s Haven,

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Just how did you get to Hough End Hall? ......... A debate, three maps and an insight into vaulting ambition

The Hall in 1849
Now as historical debates go it was a gentle and polite affair about the route the Mosley family would have taken to their home at Hough End Hall.

I hadn’t given it much thought and assumed that the road that still leads north up past what was Dog House farm was the main route into the hall, but on the history walk on Sunday Roger had pointed to the path that cuts directly across the park from Barlow Moor Road to Nell Lane, and Costel had sent me some pictures which seemed to confirm that idea.

Approaching the hall, 2015
But that northern route has been championed and there is a logic to it.

Sadly the earliest maps do not help.  Saxton’s map of 1577 and Ogilby’s of 1675 show the hall but do not offer up any roads, while Mercator’s of 1595 leaves off the hall as well as the roads.

That said Yate’s map of 1786 shows a tree lined road directly across what is now the park from Barlow Moor Lane, which is straight and suggests it has been deliberately engineered rather than evolved over time.

All of which seems to be supported by photographs from 1924 showing it crossing what was then open land before arriving at the front of the hall.

The tree lined route to the hall in 1786
But history is messy and I rather think our northern route was still very much connected with the hall and will predate the home of Sir Nicholas.

Long before he built his fine Elizabethan house in 1596 there was an earlier building roughly on the same spot belonging to the Mosley family.

It will have been a late medieval house probably of wattle and daub and certainly no longer suitable for Sir Nicholas who had made a fortune in London, was elected Lord Mayor and walked with royalty.

His impressive house would have had to have an equally impressive drive up which was wide enough to take a carriage and horses, was tree lined and straight as a die thus enabling visitors to get a clear view of where they were about to stay.

Arriving at the hall in 1923
By contrast our northern route twists and turns arriving at the side of the house and as such the grand Elizabethan frontage would have been lost.

But that road does start at the hall and may have delivered its medieval visitors to its front door.

Of course for some this may seem an argument about nothing but that is to miss the point that any assertion is up to be questioned and the process the debate can reveal so much more.

So by comparing the old maps it is possible to discover a tiny bit more about that medieval hall and also the vaulting ambition of Sir Nicholas.

The approach road in 1924
And in time we will discover much more, some of which will come to light in the next and last history walk from Hough End Hall to the Lloyds.

We will start at the Hall at 1pm on Sunday May 24 and make our way across Chorlton.

During the walk there will plenty of opportunities to learn about the hall’s past and find out about the people who lived here.

And for those who can’t wait the guide book can be downloaded at

Pictures; Hough End Hall in 1596 from Family Memoir, by Sir Oswald Mosley, 1849, the park path 2015, from the collection of Costel Harnasz, Sir Nicholas Mosley’s drive from Yates map of Lancashire, 1786, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, and the road east to the hall, 1923, City Engineers, m47841 and in 1924, B.J m47843, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Josephus, who fought the Romans was captured, became a Roman citizen and wrote a fascinating book

So here is a fascinating story of a young man born in 37 AD “who fought the Romans in Galilee in the First Jewish-Roman War. 

He was captured by Vespasian's troops and became a Roman citizen, later describing the siege and fall of Jerusalem.

His actions and writings made him a controversial figure, from his lifetime to the present day.”*

Its part of that excellent Radio 4 series In Our Time, with Melvyn Bragg discussed the man with a panel of experts.

So as its about to start I shall leave it at that.

Tessa Rajak, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, University of Reading

Philip Alexander, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Manchester

Martin Goodman, Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Oxford and President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Picture; A Roman portrait bust said to be of Josephus,  Wikipedia Commons, Scanned from a copy of Josephus' 'The Jewish War' dated 1888, image uploaded October 11 2007, original uploader was Jack1956 at English Wikipedia

* Josephus, In Our Time, Radio 4, Thursday May 21,

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Memories of leaving Manchester as an evacuee in September 1939 ..... in conversation with Bevan Taylor

“There was no chance to say goodbye to my parents, the buses arrived and we were off to London Road Station and three months in the country as evacuees.”

Poster, 1940
This almost throwaway comment by Bevan Taylor will have been replicated thousands of times across Britain during the early September of 1939.

Since Guernica in the Spanish Civil War there was that powerful idea that the “bomber would always get through” and so even before the outbreak of war preparations had been made for the mass removal of children and expectant mothers out of the danger areas.

The evacuations began in early September, experienced a lull during the Phoney War when some children returned home and picked up again after the Fall of France and the beginning of the Blitz.

But there were enormous regional variations with cities like Manchester and Liverpool evacuating large numbers of children while other urban areas sent fewer to neighbouring towns and villages.

Bev and his friends from Burnage High School were sent to two villages outside Leek in Staffordshire.

It had begun  in the spring of 1939 when his parents attended a meeting at the school “which they assumed was about Air Raid Precautions, and while there signed a form which it became clear gave permission for me to be evacuated.

Children evacuees on a bus, 1940
There were approximately 450 other lads whose parents had done the same, and we were all told to arrive at school with a packed bag.

Now I turned up with one of those fibre suitcases while my friends had rucksacks, and I did envy them those rucksacks.

We didn’t know what to expect but perhaps not just to be put in the school playing field under the supervision of some prefects.  

There was nothing to do except play cards.

At the end of the school day we were sent home, only to return the following day for more of the same.

North Manchester Grammar School Boys, 1940
In all we had four days on the playing field and I can say I’d had my fill of playing cards by the end of it.

And then on that fifth day, Friday September 11th some double-decker buses drew up outside the school

We were told we weren’t going home and with that we trooped aboard the buses and went off to the station and from there by train to Leek and on again by bus to the village of Longsdon.

There wasn’t much to the village.  I remember the church,the corner shop,  a telephone kiosk and a hall belonging to the Women’s Institute. 

I had teamed up with my friend and we reckoned that we would accept the first person who offered to take us because we didn’t fancy being there all day.

As it was we didn’t have to wait long because about half an hour after we arrived a severe looking man with dark eyes, wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella walked up to us and said ‘Would you like to come with me?  

He gave my mate his briefcase and umbrella and me the bowler hat and then with us on either side of him we walked off out of the hall and up the road to a house opposite to Salt’s farm."

Next; three months with the Peacock family

In conversation with Bevan Taylor May 8 2015

Picture; Don’t do it Mother, Ministry of Health, 1940, and was scanned and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence, Evacuation of School Children on a Bus, 1940 m09910  and North Manchester Grammar School Boys off to Bakewell, 1940, m09927  courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Monday, 18 May 2015

400 years of history and a chance to meet someone who grew up around the corner

Now the history walk from Hough End Hall to the Lloyds was a success.

Fifty four people joined us at Sir Nicholas’s old family home and having wandered across Chorlton delving into the stories of the people who lived here we finished up with a chance to show off the exhibition on the Hall and introduce people to the book, Hough End Hall The Story.*

I always like running these history walks because you get to know people who have fascinating stories which expand your knowledge.

But what made it all  the rewarding this time round was that I got to meet Phil and Chris and by one of those odd bits of chance Phil and I grew up not far from each other in south east London, added to which his brother had a house just around the corner from  our home.

And in the course of the conversation we discovered we had more in common which pretty much sealed a good day for me.

So that just leaves me to remind everyone about the book and the second walk next Sunday on the 24th.

The book tells the story of many of the people who crossed the threshold of the hall since it was built in 1596 from the Mosley family to the tenant farmers along with those who ate under its Tudor beams and celebrated everything from a wedding to a birthday.

And I have every expectation that next Sunday will offer a fresh collection of interesting people and more than a few new history stories.

Which just leaves me to say that the next history walk will set off from Hough End Hall at 1 pm on Sunday May 24, and make its way through the history of Chorlton to the Lloyds, offering plenty of stories a few dark deeds and a fair bit of our past, all in just under two hours.

Picture, Sunday May 17th from the Hall to the Lloyds from the collection  of Peter Topping

*A new book on Hough End Hall,

Rose Queens, Furness Vale and a clue to a date

Now this I reckon will open up a debate.

We are at the Furness Vale Rose Queen event sometime before 1968, and the pictures and story are from the Furness Vale Local History Society.*

I always enjoy their newsletter and when I can I try to get up there for the meetings.

This month the edition contains a fascinating account of Ollerenshaw farm which is an ongoing research project** and that account of the Rose Queen Procession.***

And it was the pictures of the old lorries that drew me into the Rose Queen story.

These celebrations pop up all over the place and the regularly turn up here on the blog. ****

But today I want to concentrate on the Furness procession, because here is a wonderful bit of local history.

It starts with the lorries which for me take me back fifty years.

And then it is the names on the sides of the vehicles which bring back lost businesses and one at least is a clue to the date of the event.

But that I will leave you to find out by following the link and reading the story.

Of course in the interests of historical debate it would be fun to see how many people come in with a suggestion of a date for the event based on those lorries.

We shall see.

Pictures; courtesy of Furness vale Local History Society

*Furness vale Local History Society,

**Ollerneshaw Farm,

***Furness Vale Rose Queen,

****The Rose Queen,

When 400 years of history becomes a chance to meet someone who grew up around the corner

Now the history walk from Hough End Hall to the Lloyds was a success.

Fifty four people joined us at Sir Nicholas’s old family home and having wandered across Chorlton delving into the stories of the people who lived here we finished up with a chance to show off the exhibition on the Hall and introduce people to the book, Hough End Hall The Story.

I always like running these history walks because you get to know people who have fascinating stories which expand your knowledge.

But what made it all  the rewarding this time round was that I got to meet Phil and Chris and by one of those odd bits of chance Phil and I grew up not far from each other in south east London, added to which his brother had a house just around the corner from  our home.

And in the course of the conversation we discovered we had more in common which pretty much sealed a good day for me.

So that just leaves me to remind everyone about the book and the second walk next Sunday on the 24th.

The book tells the story of many of the people who crossed the threshold of the hall since it was built in 1596 from the Mosley family to the tenant farmers along with those who ate under its Tudor beams and celebrated everything from a wedding to a birthday.

And I have every expectation that next Sunday will offer a fresh collection of interesting people and more than a few new history stories.

Which just leaves me to say that the next history walk will set off from Hough End Hall at 1 pm on Sunday May 24, and make its way through the history of Chorlton to the Lloyds, offering plenty of stories a few dark deeds and a fair bit of our past, all in just under two hours.

Picture, Sunday May 17th from the Hall to the Lloyds from the collection  of Peter Topping

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Walking four hundred years of Chorlton's history ........ today from Hough End Hall to the Lloyds

I have no idea what Sir Nicholas Mosley would have thought about the fact that 419 years after he moved into his fine new home at Hough End Hall it would feature as part of Chorlton Arts Festival.

Or for that matter it would be the starting point for one of those popular historic walks and talks across the township.

This one aims to tell a little of the story of the Hall and the people who lived and worked there over the last four centuries.

But there is much more because as we make our way from Sir Nicholas’s front garden across Chorlton to the Lloyds Hotel I want to offer up a description of the place and who back in the 1840s you had to be polite to.

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.

And if you miss the walks there is always the book, Hough End Hall The Story, available from Chorlton Book Shop.

Picture; down by Chorlton Brook, 2012, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Hough End Hall .......... the book.......... on sale

I do wonder what Sir Nicholas Mosley would have thought about a book dedicated to the home he built just 419 years ago.

More so because not only is it the  first book on Hough End Hall but it has been  published to raise money to save this fine house for community use.

Now his contemporaries were divided about the man with some seeing him as a ruthless businessman who trampled on the rights of local residents to increase his fortunes while others pointed to the provision he made in his will for local charities including the parish church in Chorlton as well as gifts to his servants.

Of course that is all a long time ago but the fate of Hough End Hall is very much here and now.

In those 400 years it has been the centre of a wealthy estate home to succession of farmers and most recently a restaurant, and set of offices.

At one time it was in danger of being demolished for a new road, almost became a museum and art gallery and for many decades sat half forgotten and neglected.

And now after another period of sitting empty there is a push to buy it for the community.

Very early in the discussions on how to save the Hall it seemed a good idea to produce a book which could be sold to raise funds and which would also make people aware of the building's  history and its value as a community asset.

Now that book is almost finished.  It isn’t just a story of the hall and its many different uses, but focuses on the people who lived there and the way they lived their varied lives.

And because the Hall touched many more people there are the vivid memories of those who worked in the hall and plenty who grew up playing in the grounds.

So less a story of one building and more a set of stories of the community who have known it over the centuries and the many who want it to continue to be at the heart of where we live.

The book is available at Chorlton Book Shop

Picture; cover from the book, and the Hall in 1749 from Family Memoirs, Sir Oswald Mosley, 1849