Friday, 31 July 2015

On arriving at Castlefield

Nothing quite prepares you for the entrance into the Castlefield Canal Basin.

We had been walking the Duke’s Canal from Stretford into town one summer’s day.  The route is a mix of the residential and industrial and I have to say parts of it are quite boring.

But we were on a waterway which in its time was one of the most important and busiest waterways

The Duke’s Canal or the Bridgewater was built in the 1760s so that the Duke could transfer coal from his mines in Worsley directly into the heart of the city.

It was a great success and showed the way for many other canal entrepreneurs and led to the “Age of the Canal” a much overused title for the period but perhaps an accurate one, for in the 40 or so years after Bridgewater coal was landed in Manchester the country was crisscrossed with a canal network.

And its impact on us here in Chorlton was just as great.

It would have begun with its building for while most of the work was done by the professional “navigators” those hard working hard living men who cut and constructed the canal, there was still some work for our own casual farm labourers.

And I guess one or two would have moved on with the navvies.

These were early days in the construction of the canals and later the railways and I doubt that the reputation the navvies were to make for themselves was much in evidence in the 1760s as they did the Duke’s bidding.

All of which was a darned sight different when just under 90 years later the navvies were back driving the railway line across the same route which would connect Stretford to the city.  By now communities across the country had grown to be more than a little apprehensive of the presence of the railway navigator with their temporary camps and the stories of their riotous lives.

But this is a little away from our walk along the canal.  Today it can be a relatively solitary journey but back in the late 18th and the first half of the 19th century the place would have been alive.

There were the regular journeys of boats taking fruit and vegetables from the farms of Chorlton and Stretford three times a week to catch the Manchester Markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings which proved so successful that the Company had to send the food boats at night and offer farmer’s seats on the packet boats.  And on the return trip they brought back the night soil which our farmers spread on the land.

Then there were the twice daily package boats from Stretford along the canal which transported passengers in comfort and speed.  A ticket for the front room cost 6d [2½p] and the back room 4d [1½p].  This was travelling in style.  

These packet boats were fitted with large deck cabins surrounded by windows which allowed the passengers to sit “under cover and see the country” glide by at the rate of six miles an hour, made possible by  two or sometimes three horses which pulled the packet.  And if that was not style enough the lead horse was guided by a horseman in full company livery.

And as I reflected in an earlier post there was plenty to see.  But despite all this the canal was a narrow stretch of water until of course it reached the Castlefield Basin, for here was a vast expanse of water, with landing stages warehouses and boats that had travelled down the Ashton and Rochdale Canals from far distant parts of the country.

You can get a sense of how busy it could have been during high summer when the tourists and canal enthusiasts moor up, but this is not a working water way anymore.  On a warm Saturday night there might be the sound of good conversation, the clink of wine glasses and the odd snatch of the radio, but not the sound of everything from coal to fine bone china being unloaded, or the babble of different regional accents swapping stories of their trips to Manchester.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and map from Bradshaw’s Inland Navigation of England and Wales, 1830, courtesy of Digital Archives,

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 34 ............ that lost model shop on Blenheim Grove and model planes, ships and soldiers I have made

The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

Airfix, 1959
Now it will seem daft but for the last few years I have wasted time looking for the model shop near the station on Rye Lane.

It was one of those powerful childhood memories which wouldn’t go away and that I suspect is because I am part of the Airfix generation.

From when I was about seven for almost a decade I would buy and make up the plastic kits of planes, ships and figures, and as our train set got ever bigger there were all the Airfix railway accessories, from houses, to signal boxes, and of course the station.

And depending on the amount of money I had it might be anything from the simplest of kits to the impressive ones which came in a box and might take days to make.

Looking back I suppose I was part of that last age group who spent hours making things and who on another day might also be collecting train numbers, “fag cards” or hunting out stamp collections.

It was what you did in the 1950s.

Soviet Tank
Nor was it just the simple act of construction, for afterwards came the painting and finally the application of the transfers to the wings and side of the plane or the heraldic design to the sails of the old ships.

It was a painstaking exercise and one that could then be extended by hanging the aircraft from the ceiling or making an elaborate display which combined planes tanks and military figures.

And if I am honest I have never lost that fascination for model making which began all over again when my sons were at an age when I could go into a model shop and not feel a bit of a nerd.

Of course 1940 Spitfires and Hurricanes were later  replaced by War Hammer but the essentials were the same.

They were made of plastic, needed assembling and then had to be painted which meant that  during the 1980s and into the 1990s I found myself thinking again about the model shop by the station.

But its exact location was lost until by chance I shared my search with someone who lived on Blenheim Grove and the rest as say  they became an exchange of memories and of models bought and made.

All of which was a bit reassuring because there is nothing worse than a childhood memory which cannot be verified.  It gnaws away making you begin to doubt a whole set of memories.

So that is one that has been solved and that has let the memories flood back.

On a Saturday afternoon the shop which would be crowded and you had to negotiate the glass cases in the middle of the shop while staring up at the selves and cabinets which ran up to the ceiling all full of made up models.

Model Zone Manchester, 2015
And of course there was nothing like seeing the finished thing to entice you to part with your money.

Over the years I must have made half a dozen Luftwaffe Stuka, Me 109s, along with Spitfires, Hurricanes and a whole host of planes from both world wars and from each of the competing countries.

But as I sit back more than a little pleased at finding that old model shop it is tinged with the discovery that the one here in Manchester that I spent many hours visiting with each of the lads has closed.

So as one set memories resurfaces another batch is lost.

Pictures; Small Airfix models, 1957 by Pantoine (talk | contribs) 2006, Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, and Airfix model of an unpainted Soviet T-34/85 tank in 1/72 scale, 2008, Wolcott (talk) from Airfix,, and Modelzone Deansgate Manchester, 2015 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

Continuing the search for Miss Robertson of Cheltenham ........ born in India, who tended the wounded in the Great War

Now I know I will find out more about Miss Kathleen Roberts, but I fear it won’t be yet.

And that is a shame because I have now seen the medals she was awarded by the Red Cross for her work during the Great War.

The little I do know is intriguing enough.  She was born in Coonar in Maddras which was one of the hill stations favoured by the British during the hot season in India, her maternal grandmother came from Tasmania and was the widow of an Indian army officer who brought her children up in Cheltenham.

So I wasn’t surprised that this was where I found Miss Robertson in the April of 1911 and it made sense that she should be working in a Red Cross hospital in the town.

But that pretty much is it.

There were promising leads.  I found a Kathleen Robertson on the shipping lists for India both going out and coming back in 1934 but on closer inspection this was not her.

I found three of her aunts and an uncle and am still looking for more on her grandmother, Agnes Baker but  the trail stops at 1872.

In that year  Mrs Baker was in India.  This I know because three of her children were born there between 1872 and 1877, while her final child was born in Cheltenham in 1879.

What of course is revealing is the light it shines on those families who served the Empire.  Mrs Baker had been born in Tasmania but lived part of her married life in India briefly coming back in 1873 when she gave birth to her fourth child.

Some of the records for both her and her granddaughter will be in India and so may prove more difficult to access and I have yet to find any references to Miss Robertson’s parents but in time they will tumble out of the shadows.

The real search however is for young Miss Robertson, after all now that I have seen her medals I must go on.

Pictures; the Red Cross medals of Miss Kathleen Robertson, courtesy of David Harrop 

*Red Cross Nurses,

Summer in the City ............ meeting for a coffee

A short series using pictures taken over the last few years celebrating summer in the city.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Tudor Barn in 1909, one for the album

The Tudor Barn in 1909
Now here is one for the picture album.

This is the Tudor Barn back in 1909 and that really is about all I want to say.

After all lots of people have written about it so I shall just leave the words on the page and thank Kristina Bedford who gave me permission to reproduce the image from her book on Eltham.

Picture; courtesy of Kristina Bedford.

*Eltham Through Time, Amberley, Publishing,  2013

Ms Bedford also has an interesting web site, Ancestral Deeds,

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 33 ............ the works "Jolly" in Brighton, October 1963

Dad and a Glenton's coach circa 1949
The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

I remember the first time I went to Brighton.

It will have been sometime in the autumn of 1963 and was what has become known as a “jolly” but was officially “the works outing” and amongst my Dad’s colleagues was simply a “Beano.”

Of course these dos weren’t exclusive to work places, many pubs, clubs and institutes would have their day out in the sun with just that right mix of beer, sand, sea and fish and chips.

For Glenton’s it was always the south coast while for Tudor Crisps in Peterlee where I worked briefly it was Whitby or Scarborough and for the countless pubs and factories here in Manchester it was Blackpool.

In many ways the destination didn’t matter, it was the journey which usually involved several pub stops along the way, a “slap up meal” before and after a walk along the front and more pubs and hotels.

Off on a "chara" early 20th century
Most of those on that Glenton’s do were from the garage although there were a few from the office at New Cross and I think a couple more from Saxton’s the estate agents who owned the coach company.

Unlike most our trip was not in the summer but mid October when the season was over and the coaches parked in the garage and the drivers taking a long well earned rest

Such trips have a long history stretching back to the charabanc which was a horse drawn vehicle used for sightseeing and works outings usually to the countryside or seaside. They were usually open topped and were common in Britain in the early 20th century.

In time the horse gave way to a motorised version which often had a detachable body so that when the summer season was over the vehicle could be used as a flat bed lorry.

Horse drawn "chara", late 19th century
They were not very comfortable and by the 1920s were being replaced by the coach. These might still have a canvas top but were far more comfortable.

And here there is another connection with Glenton’s because for years back in the 1930s a model of Dad's coach proudly sat in the office window at New Cross, and by degree by the 1950s made its way to the back of the office and finally came home to our house where I played with it for years.

It was a beautifully crafted model which in the untender care of a six year old slowly lost much of its finer detail until all that was left was the chassis and four wheels.

All of which is perhaps a lesson on what a five year old should be given as a toy.

As for that day in Brighton it passed well enough.  Dad I think had gone out of duty and perhaps to fill the numbers I was invited along with my friends Jimmy O’Donnell and John Cox.

For me it was a one off and while I have been on work nights out I have never repeated the “Jolly” and have yet to return to Brighton which has along ago reinvented itself, unlike Blackpool which continues to offer that mix of cheap fun by the sea enlivened by the procession of hen night groups.

All a long way from Brighton and that day out with Glenton’s but thinking about it perhaps not.

Pictures; charabancs from the early 20th century, from the Lloyd Collection.

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

Another story from Tony Goulding .............. the tragic death of Peter Mee

The Mee family are an old Chorlton family so I was drawn to Tony's latest story.

The Mersey by Jackson's Boat
In November 1923 a promising young footballer, Peter Mee, died tragically near this celebrated Chorlton-cum-Hardy landmark.

He was last seen on a very foggy "Guy Fawkes" day and his body was recovered from the River Mersey adjacent to Sale Golf Club some 6 weeks later.

Peter was born on March 30 1899 and christened at St.Clements the following month on April 30.

His parents were Thomas, a carter/"night soil man", for the various local authorities who ran the township at the turn of 19th-20th centuries, and his wife Jane (nee Pennington).

From the Hartlepool Mail, December 17 1923
At the time of the 1901 census the family were residing in Brownhill's Buildings off Sandy Lane but by 1911 they had moved to 31 Zetland Terrace, on the Green

On leaving school Peter became an apprentice in an iron works before seeing service in the fledgling Royal Air Force - - his 6 months engagement neatly spanning the armistice of November 1918 ending World War 1.

After demobilisation Peter's football career blossomed; he was for a time on the books of Manchester City although he never made an appearance for their first team.

Third Division North Final 1923-4
In July 1923 he was transferred to Southport F.C. (then in the Football League 3rd Division North)  for which club he made an impressive start scoring half a dozen times in just the 13 games he played for them, prior to his untimely demise.
Peter was buried in Southern Cemetery on December 19 1923 in S 512 the grave of his father, who had proceeded him in April 1918.

Peter's details are not visible on the headstone however, and there is no way of knowing the reason for this.

©Tony Goulding 2015

Pictures; Tony Goulding

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Down by Hulme Hall Road and the passing of another bit of our history

Now I have to give it to Andy Robertson just hours after the news that on old mill had partially collapsed on Hume Hall Road he was there to record the building.

I had spotted the news story but let it go.*

Not so Andy who sent me the pictures with the comment, “you may have heard about the partial collapse of the mill on Manchester Evening News Website which has some excellent pictures, and went to investigate but couldn't see damage from our angle.”

Andy will I am sure go digging into the digital archive for old pictures of the place.

Back in 1911 it was a printing works and seventeen years earlier was shown as “Locke & Son, shoeing smiths and Williams Cartage Limited (wheelwright works).”

So I think there is a rich bit of history to track down.

The site was still empty in 1849 so it will be a short crawl through the directories to see what we can find.

Added to which there will be another search to see what happened to it in the years after 1911.

And judging from Andy's pictures the building has been empty for a while.

Now according to the MEN it will have to come down.

Pictures; down by Hulme Hall Road, 2015, courtesy of Andy Robertson

*Castlefield mill collapse: Aerial pictures show extent of damage to building on Hulme Hall Road, BY AMY GLENDINNING, July 28 2015, Manchester Evening News,

Down behind Deansgate Station with the memory of a dark and forbidding period in our history

I think it must be a full decade since I wandered around the small network of streets behind Deansgate railway station.

During the 1980s and into the turn of the last century the area bounded by Commercial Street, Jackson Street and Omega Place was part of a series of guided walks and talks  I did around this part of the city.*

They had started as a study of Liverpool Road Railway station grew to include the pubs, surviving houses in Castlefield along with the canal basin and spread out across Deansgate.

Back in the 1980s much of the area was still a place waiting for something to happen, and now thirty years later this has happened.  The empty and derelect buildings have either been converted into smart office and residential properties or been replaced by tall 21st century glass and steel structures.

But Andy Robertson has managed to capture a little of what I remember and looking at his pictures it is easy to conjure up those walks I made and something of what the area was like back in the mid 19th century.

Over two decades ago I wrote that

“in a small area which still keeps the original place names of Commercial Street, Jordan Street and Omgea Place, the 1853 Sanitary report records two hundred people living there in what is now a small car park.  It was still possible in the mid 1980s to see the levelled walls of the buildings at ground level.

Chorlton-upon-Medlock which also neighbours Castlefield and includes Little Ireland, had a population in 1851 of 35,546 squeezed into 6,951 houses.

The high numbers of people who were buried in the St Johns graveyard can further attest this density of living in the area. 

Between 1848-51 the burial records show 457 deaths, which is matched by an inscription, which reports that 22,000 lie in the park. 

Similar data comes from Angel Meadow where 44,000 people were buried between 1789-1816."  

The 1853 report commented that the houses on Omega Place were by no the worst properties that could be found in the area but still rereading the report is to be transported into a world of overcrowding, poor sanitation and grim prospects.

Pictures; Little Peter Street & Commercial Street, 2014, from the collection of Andy Roberston


**Report on the Sanitary Condition of Certain Parts of Manchester, M126/5/1/13, Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, quoted in Castlefield, Andrew Simpson, 2003

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 32 ............ looking for that newsagents on Mona Road

The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

Walter Green House built before the newsagents went, 2007
I went looking for the little newsagents on Mona Road.

In its time it delivered our papers, my comics and once briefly provided me with a job.

But the less said about the paper round the better. It was a disaster for me, the shop and the customers.

Despite this hiccup I still have a fond spot for the place and remember that overpowering smell of newsprint and chocolate along with the heavy dark wooden counters and shelves that disappeared into the ceiling and no doubt had you rummaged at the back there would have been the odd item which was sold as new when the old king died.

Now Mona Road isn’t a very long road and consisted of just six houses on the north side and seven opposite.

And as well as being the location for our newsagent was also part of the route I took from Lausanne Road to Edmund Waller.

So I felt fairly confident that it would be one of those little personal landmarks which would still be there and while I was prepared for some changes I would still be able to buy a Kit Kat, look through the comics and touch a bit of my past.

I reckoned the old hand painted sign running the length of the shop would have gone along with the small shop window replaced by one of those 1970s walls of glass.  This I reasoned was progress but the reality was worse, for along with the other five houses it had gone completely, cleared away and replaced by a large block of flats which spill out on to Lausanne Road.

And while they were at it those responsible also did away with a stretch of Dennett’s Road.

At which point it would easy and lazy to condemn what happened to that bit of my history, but I haven’t lived there since 1964, don’t pay the council tax and have no idea of the state of the properties which were demolished.

So I shall return to my newsagents.

Searching back through the memories I think it must once have been a private residence which at some time was converted.  Back in 1914 the directory lists a Mr Tom Noble newsagent at number 13 which seems to be a smaller property at the end of the row at the Dennett’s end.

But I remember it in the middle of the row and I doubt there will be any one who can help.

The Eagle Comic, 1959
Which of course is the problem, for with the passage of over half a century I have lost contact with everyone I knew in the area.

That said I have made new friends, some of whom we have discovered lived very close by and but for an accident of different schools may well have become friends.

And I am confident that something will eventually pop up about that newsagent and if not it will have to be the hard trawl through the old directories for the 1950s.  But they are not on line and can only be accessed by a visit to the local studies centre, which will involve a trip back to Peckham.

Which is pretty much where I came in and just leaves me to reflect on the Eagle comic which fell through our door from Mona Road everyday from the mid 1950s through to the early 60’s.

It saw me through my early years and pretty much sums up much about the period which I rather think will work its way into a story.

Pictures; Walter Green House, 2007 from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick , Safari in Space,  the Eagle Comic, 1959

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

A little bit of Kent in Oldham in the October of 1911

Now I know there is a story here but it has yet to reveal itself.

The caption on the postcard just says In a Kentish Lane and given that it is part of the collection of material I am looking at from the Great War I assumed it would have been sent from Kent.

I doubt I will ever know where in Kent the picture was and as I read the address and the message on the back it became apparent that Kent had nothing to do with the story that was beginning to unfold.

The card was was sent to Mrs S H Wood by her mother and Mrs Wood was in the Strinesdale Sanatorium at Moorside in Oldham.

Her mother was unable “to visit tomorrow” as Nellie was ill but planned to come next Saturday.

It was sent on a Tuesday afternoon and before 4pm and with the more frequent delivery service I suspect Mrs Wood had the card that evening or very certainly the next morning.

That should be about it.

I went looking for Mrs Wood in the Oldham area for 1911 but came up almost nothing.

All I do know is that the Strinesdale Sanatorium was for people with TB which in the age before antibiotics
was still a very dangerous disease and one in which recovery to full health could take a long time and essentially involved bed rest.

Strinesdale opened in 1895 and closed in 1960.

I guess the records have long since been destroyed  but given that some for Manchester Hospitals have survived I think it may be worth trying to find them.

All of which just leaves why her mother chose a picture of Kent and that I guess we will never know.

Picture; from the collection of David Harrop

Miss Kathleen Robertson, a Red Cross hospital in Cheltenham and a hill station in India

I am off looking for the story of Ms Kathleen Robertson.

The Nilgiri Hills
She was a nurse with the Red Cross in Cheltenham during the Great War and her medals have just been acquired by David Harrop who has a collection of memorabilia from both world wars.

David was keen to add theses to the collection because they compliment an autograph book from the St John’s Red Cross Hospital in Cheltenham which was started in 1916 and ran through to the end of the war.

The book contains poems, pictures and comments from men recovering from wounds.  Some of the men were wounded at Gallipoli and others in the opening weeks of the Battle of the Somme.

Now I think I have found her in Cheltenham in 1911, and already the story has taken a fascinating turn.  She was born in 1897 at Coonoor in Madras which  is the second highest hill station in the Nilgiri mountains. It was a popular summer and weekend getaway for the British during the colonial days.

And I suspect that her mother will have chosen to settle there for Kathleen’s birth.
Now that is a bit of a supposition but in 1911 she was living with her grandmother at 29 Park Place Cheltenham.

All of which would suggest that her parents were still in India.

So there is much still to do from tracking her mother and father, discovering  more about Miss Robertson’s time the Red Cross and what happened to her after the Great War.

This will I hope involve the help of the local studies centre in Cheltenham who may be able to locate the staff list of the hospital.  As yet the Red Cross have yet to digitize all their staff records and I am hoping the centre will be able to find her.

And along the way I might find out more about her grandmother who was born in Tasmania.

In the meantime I await David’s pictures of Miss Robertson’s medals.

Picture; Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu , his file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license., no changes were made to this image

Summer in the City ............ waiting for the train

A short series using pictures taken over the last few years celebrating summer in the city.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Higginbotham's farm and the parish church from the air

This is one of those pictures taken by Tony Walker from one of his own model planes sometime in the 1980s. 

To the right at the bottom are the farm buildings and house of the Higginbotham family who lived here on the green from the 1840s and farmed land across the meadows and what is now the Rec.

By the time the picture was taken the working part of the old farm was used as a building yard by the Walker family.

But it is still possible to get a clear idea of the lay out and the of the farm yard.  It was here in one of the barns that the Methodists held services before the first chapel on the Row was built.

In the same way it is possible to make sense of both the geography of the old parish church and the its graveyard.  The original chapel was built in 1512 and its replacement at the beginning of the 19th century.

There is evidence that the graveyard was extended and the shape of the plot may be the clue to this.

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Walking in Nunhead Cemetery ...............

Now Nunhead Cemetery is one of those places where you can have a history lesson while watching some fascinating wildlife, stumble across an interesting building or just enjoy the solitude.

Of course foremost it is a cemetery which was part of that Victorian drive to apply rationality and uniformity to all things including the burial of the dead.

The centuries old practise of interring the dead close to the living in city centres was regarded as unhealthy and I suspect all too messy for many Victorians, added to which many of these small ancient burial grounds were all but full.

So in 1852 the London Necropolis Company set about planning and establishing big out of town resting places.

The first was at Brookwood in Surrey and with that typical Victorian ingenuity the company also added a dedicated railway line which opened in 1854 and provided a train service for the mourners, and their deceased loved ones direct from Waterloo to Brookwood.
Nunhead was the seventh.

It was opened in 1840 and originally was called All Saints Cemetery and continued the business of interring the dead till by the middle of the last century it was almost full.

And after its closure it pretty much was left to its own devices which I guess will have been when I wandered in looking for conkers, but that is a tale I have already told along with its  restoration by the the Friends and the Council.

I can’t remember when I was there but it was only the once and seen through the eyes of a ten year old so I am pleased that Adrian has sent these pictures of the place, and I rather think I will post more of his Nunhead photographs through the summer.

Pictures; Nunhead Cemetery, 20014 provided by Adrain Parfitt

*The story of one house in Peckham number 6 ............ of conkers, trespass and Nunhead Cemetery,

Monday, 27 July 2015

The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 31 ............ a heap of electoral rolls and the lost houses of Lausanne Road

The back of our house circa 1954
The story of one house in Peckham over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

Miss Elsie Mabel Carly lived in our house on Lausanne Road for just under half a century.

The family were there sometime around 1904 and moved out in 1951 when my dad and mum bought the house.

I doubt that I would have found out that much about the Carly's had I not begun trawling the electoral registers to see where my parents lived before I was born.

And as I uncovered the different properties ending with Kender Street and Lausanne Road it occurred to  me that I should be able to use the same registers to find out who had lived in our house before us.

Now I knew the Carly’s were there in 1911, a piece of research that led me on to tell the story of young George Carly, who was born in 1894 and died on the Western Front during the Battle of the Somme on September 18 1916.**

At his death he was serving in B Company of the First Battalion Queen’s Westminster Rifles and if I have got this right the Queens’ Westminster Rifles had been formed in the August of 1914 at 58 Buckingham Gate and had been a Territorial Force and leaving for France in the November.

From the Thieupal Memorial
Sadly like so many of the men who served in the Great War George’s military records were destroyed which at present leaves us very little other than a reference on the Thieupal Memorial.

The family continued to live at Lausanne Road and it is those electoral rolls which allowed me to follow Miss Elsie from 1929 when she gained the first through the 1920s up to 1951 with that added bonus of a telephone directory which listed her as the subscriber in 1947.

Nor is that quite all because I she lived to see her 97th birthday dying in Hastings in 2000 which was where her father had been born.

The Swiss tavern, 2007
In time I think I shall go looking for her two sisters who she shared the house with until 1951.

Not that these were the only surprises that came out of those electoral registers.

Having found Miss Elsie I went looking for our news agents on Mona Road and found instead the house numbers of two of my friends.

I knew John Cox had lived on Dennett’s Road and Jimmy O’Donnell on Somerville Road, and there on the register I found their parents.

Not perhaps the greatest bit of detective work but one that took me back to my childhood.

And there were two final discoveries.  One was of a pub on Luggard Road which clearly has long gone and the other was the block of police flats which stood between number 28 and the wood yard which abutted the Swiss Tavern.

When I was growing up I just took the flats for granted.  Looking at them now they stand out as 1950s build and sure enough the prewar maps show eight houses identical to ours and from the electoral registers we can track who lived in numbers 30 through to 42.

The old police flats, 2007
And sometime between October 7 1940 and June 6 1941 they received a hit from a high explosive bomb and the rest as they say was a bomb site followed by post war reconstruction.***

All of which is confirmed by the surveyors report on the house from 1951 which commented on how
The main roof is covered with concrete plain tiles (presumably done in recent years under war damage repairs) and appears to be in very good condition.”

Now I rather think there is a story here which if I had access to the local newspaper of the period I would be able to tease out but just maybe some stories are left unresearched and unwritten.

Pictures; our house, circa 1954, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and  the police flats, and the Swiss Tavern, 2017, from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

** The story of one house in Peckham number 8 ........ George Carly of Lausanne Road, born in 1894 and died at the Somme in 1916,

*** Bombsight,

Sunday, 26 July 2015

So what was Southern Street in Castlefield once like?

Southern Street in 2003
This is Southern Street, off Liverpool Road and during a chunk of the 1980s  and into the next two decades it was one of the stops on an annual walk and talk I did in the Castlefield area.

During the course of those years it underwent profound changes with most of what had been late 18th century houses demolished or converted into flats and offices.

Of course part of me was saddened by the loss of these old properties but the upside is that the street is once again a place where people live and work.

Looking down Southern Street 2003
And that has to be a good thing.  By the 1980s there were few businesses left and within the next twenty years even they had gone.

I remember talking to some of the men who worked in Andrew’s Garage in the centre of Southern Street along with the owners of the printing business at one end of the street and the motor bike shop at the other.

Collectively their memories spanned back into  the 1950s and in the course of the next week or so I want to look at that lost Castlefield.

But for now I shall just reproduce something I wrote back in 2003 and leave you to reflect on just how much this little bit of Castlefield has changed.

“Southern Street in 1851 shows the same pattern of housing occupation as other working class parts of the city.  

In many of the houses there is evidence of overcrowding and cellar occupation.  

So at 3 Southern Street, 15 people are recorded there in 1851, with 5 living in the cellar, 2 in one room, 4 in another and 4 in the garret.   

Numbers 3 & 5 Southern Street, 2003
Number 5 has 11 people.  Across the street number 12 &14 are now a garage.  
In 1851, 7 people are listed as living in number 14.  

It is easy to appreciate the degree of squeeze when you measure the size of these properties.  

Put more simply when you look down Southern Street, remember that the 1851 census recorded 81 people living in this small street, which was a drop from the 200 living there a decade before.

Numbers 3 & 5 Southern Street is worth looking at in detail, as they may not be there for much longer. 

The block has been bought recently and while there is some doubt about the future plans I can’t see them staying in their present state.  

They were surveyed in 1993.  The houses consisted of three floors and a cellar.  The second floor dimensions of number 3 are 22 feet 6 inches back from the front and 16 feet 4 inches from side to side. Number 5 varies slightly at 22 feet 2 inches by 17 feet.  

Numbers 12 & 14 Southern Street, 2003
Evidence for the cellar windows can still be seen but much else has undergone changes.  

Ground and first floor windows are not original and the door to number 5 has been enlarged. 

All the evidence suggests that they were built sometime around 1794.  

Houses on Southern Street, Barton Street and Worsley Street are shown on a map of that year, when Liverpool Road was still called Priestner Street and terminated at Collier Street.  

Street Directories record people living in them from 1795.  This fits in with what we know of the surrounding streets.  

Evidence from the title deeds of the White Lion Inn and the Oxnoble Inn show that that six plots of land were sold in 1782. In 1804 the Oxnoble plot was sold again on condition that it was built upon within two years.”*

*Castlefield, Andrew Simpson, 2003

Pictures, Southern Street and Liverpool Road, 2003

Lost Chorlton Churches nu 2 .......... the Macpherson Memorial Primitive Church High Lane

I just missed the Primitive Methodist Church on High Lane.

It closed  two years before I came to Manchester in 1969, and had been demolished by the time I settled in Chorlton.

Now I have been interested in the place since I discovered James McPherson who was closely involved with the church since it was founded in 1896.

“The Primitive Methodist church was early 19th century secession from the Wesleyan Methodist church and was particularly successful in evangelising agricultural and industrial communities at open meetings. 

In 1932 the Primitive Methodists joined with the Wesleyan Methodists and the United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.”*

Mr Macpherson was an undertaker and lived next door at number 23 High Lane from 1901 and possibly earlier.

In 1894 this stretch of land was still open but it may well be that when the first church building went up in 1898 the McPherson family moved to the large ten roomed house beside the church.

Mr McPherson died in 1901 but his two daughters, Sophie and Jessie were still in the family home a decade later and show up on the census return sharing the house with three boarders.

Isabella Russell Kay was aged 80, and a widow, Mary Florence Jeffery, 35, was married and her daughter Mary Taylor Jeffrey was.  Mrs Jeffrey had married ten years but there is no indication of where her husband was on the night of the census.

Sophie died in 1912 and this may have been when her sister moved because she died five years later in Lancaster.

And that pretty much is all I know at present.

Their house is still there but only one of the church buildings survives.  This was the school built in 1896, which was enlarged in 1908 and is now the  "Manchester Centre for Buddhist Meditation."

The church stood to the left of the school and was opened in 1902, but declining numbers and the reorganisation of the Methodist Church in 1932 meant that it closed in 1967.

All that is left to do is some digginging into the rate books and directories and we may be able to pinpoint exactly when the family moved to Chorlton and when Jessie left for Lancaster.

Pictures; the Macpherson Memorial Primitive Church High Lane, circa 1920s from the Lloyd Collection and the school today from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*High Lane Primitive Methodist, Chorlton cum Hardy,

Walking the woods above Well Hall in 1977

Sometimes it is worth remembering just how pleasant it is to live in Eltham.

When we first arrived in 1964 I had no idea that just above where we lived on Well Hall Road were a stretch of woods which gave you a sense of being somewhere far away from the High Street and those busy roads which took you down to Greenwich or Woolwich.

But there they were a dense and wonderful set of woodlands in which you could walk for miles.

And so that is all I am going to say on the matter and just close by thanking my friend Jean for another  photograph of Eltham in the 1970s.

Picture; from the collection of Jean Gammons

A day on Asylum Road trying to remember that event 56 years ago

At the entrance
Now sitting in my memory pretty much tucked right at the back is the day I visited the Asylum on Asylum Road.

It will have been 1959 and somehow I had discovered that on that day on what was a pretty indifferent day there was a fun day at the place.

Of course it wouldn’t have been called a Fun Day, but there was that familiar mix of stalls, silly things to do along with popcorn, and gas filled balloons which lifted up into the air and were gone in an instant.

looking across the lawn
I remember spending all my pocket money and then walking the long walk home under the railway bridge on Clifton Road, via Pomeroy Street to Lausanne Road.

So far back into the past was that day that I had come to question if it all happened and no matter how many times I went looking I couldn’t find the place.

And then Adrian Parfitt sent me a set of pictures he had taken so long ago that they were “in an old hard drive that I had forgotten, I don't know if you will recall this place?  It’s Catherine’s Gardens or maybe you might have heard it call the Asylum in Asylum Road at the Old Kent Road end. 
The chapel

I thought that it might be of some interest to you.”

I of course had no idea that this was the Asylum when I wandered in and paid my entrance fee and don’t remember the grand building that was the chapel.

To be honest all I remember is a bit of grass, a brick wall and those gas canisters used to fill the balloons, and the popcorn stall which was the first time I had eaten the stuff.

Detail of the asylum in 1872
"Caroline Gardens Chapel, in Peckham, forms the heart of London’s largest complex of almshouses originally known as the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum.

However, despite being called an “asylum”, the grade-II-listed site was not a home for lunatics. Instead, the word was used in its older sense of “sanctuary” and it was in fact an old folks’ home for retired pub landlords (or “decayed members of the trade” as they were known at the time)."*

During the last war the residents had been moved out and while they returned when the war was over the decision was made to relocate to Buckinghamshire in 1959 and the asylum was sold to Southwark Council in 1960, "which to this day uses it as social housing. 

Southwark renamed it “Caroline Gardens” after Caroline Secker, a former resident and widow of James Secker, who was the marine in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), said to have caught Nelson when he fell."*

The Asylum
And now there are lots more interesting things happening down at the Chapel, which is home to an artist lead organisation based in Caroline Gardens Chapel in Peckham, London. 

It was founded in 2010 and is directed by artists Jo Dennis and Dido Hallett. Asylum uses the chapel as a project and exhibition space, hires it out for events and as a location for film and photography.”**

So that rather means that my Fun day may well have been more of a goodbye day.

Either way it is a little mystery that can now be laid to rest a full 56 years after I ate my first bag of popcorn and for that I have Adrian to thank.

Pictures; the Asylum and Caroline Gardens, and detail of the Asylum in 1872 from the OS for London 1862-72, courtesy of Digital Archives Association

*Asylum history,

** Asylum,

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Of Chorlton carnivals, Enoch Royle's decorated cart and a missing church on Albany Road

Now there is a lot in this picture.

The caption says “Decorated float in Albany Road, for Chorlton Carnival in the 1930s? Enoch Royle at the horses head, permission William Jackson.”

And I suppose that decorated float is where we will start.

According to the local historian John Lloyd, Chorlton staged a number of these carnivals during the mid 1930s which seemed usually to be centred on the Oswald Road part of new Chorlton and were part of the Rose Queen festivals which raised money for the Manchester and Salford Hospitals.

The Manchester Guardian in 1937 reported that carnival season had opened with “the gala held in St Margaret’s playing fields, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, on Saturday may be said to mark the opening of the charity carnival season.  

It has a history of five or six years only, but already it has become perhaps the most considerable effort of its kind undertaken in the city on behalf of the Manchester and Salford Medical Charities Fund.  

It has all the customary carnival, features a queen to be crowned with picturesque ceremony, morris dancers and processions of characters in comic and fancy dresss on horseback, cycle or on foot.”

The last recorded was the 1937 one although others like the Stretford one lasted much longer.
Now Enoch Royle crops up in a number of pictures in the collection always with his wagon and always at the bottom of Albany Road.

Now I had assumed he was a coal man and said so in earlier posts but in 1929 when he was living at 26 Fielden Avenue he gave his occupation as carter which is important because I had gone looking for his coal yard on the corner of Albany and Brantingham Roads and instead found a church and a hall.

Both appear to have had a short life.  They were there by 1909 but had vanished by the 1940s and tantalizingly there are those who remember a business run from the corner which went under the name of Mores which means that I will have to go into the Ref and trawl the directories.

So that just leaves the house behind the cart which is still, there today and has in its time been both a private residence and a retail outlet.

My earlier story on Mr Royle prompted Andy Robertson to send me a picture of the property from a few years ago but sadly neither of us has a memory of what was beside the property before the garage.

So while I go searching for that bit of the story I shall close with the observation that back them you could see across to Manchester Road.

Picture; of Mr Royle circa 1930s, from the Lloyd collection, Albany Road in September 20102 , with 
Flynn's Electricals, courtesy of Andy Robertson 

*Manchester Guardian, June 21 1937

**So who remembers that church and the Davenport Mores Hall on the corner of Albany and Brantingham?