Monday, 31 August 2015

Changing Manchester .......... nu 2 working on the Second City Crossing

Now in the digital collection of Manchester Libraries there is a set of photographs dating from the early 20th century showing tram lines being laid around St Mary’s Gate.

And following on from those historic records here is one Andy Robertson took during the weekend of work on the Second City Crossing close by.

All of which is a nice bit of continuity.

Picture; work on the Second City Crossing, near Exchange Square, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson 

In St George’s Square with the expert

Now it is always nice when a story is picked up and given an added dimension by someone  who knows and loves the place.

So in response to the story on Huddersfield Railway Station, Andrew Haign quick as a flash came back with this.*

“Well, each building in the square is listed and each has their own story. 

But kicking off with the George Hotel, to Harold's left,  it was the first building to join the Railway in 1850, its predecessor The George Inn was knocked down to make way for John William Street to be built which is the road the Lion directs you down to the Market Place. 

The George Hotel's most notable claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Rugby League. 

A meeting was held there in 1895, where 21 northern clubs decided to break away from Rugby Union.

Incidentally, the aforementioned lion is actually a 1977 fibreglass replica of the original Coade Stone lion of 1854. 

It's said the lion leaves his pedestal and saunters round the Square when the station clock chimes for midnight. Just a shame the station clock doesn't chime.”

Now you can’t beat detail like that.

And the square, the station and the hotel are all but a short train ride away through some fascinating landscape which must be a pretty outrageous plug for the railways.

And of course for our own great Manchester railway stations which feature on the blog.**

That said the George is closed for refurbishment till the new year which just leaves those two pubs either end of the main station one of which so impressed Jean who also picked up on the story that she was moved to write,

“Spent some time in the Head of Steam next to the station a couple of weeks ago when I attended the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. They do great chips too!"

All of which suggests that when you are tired of Manchester there is always Huddersfield just down the train track.

Pictures; of the George Hotel, and St George’s Square, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Text © Andrew Haigh

*Huddersfield Railway Station ......... what they did after building our own Liverpool Road Station,

**Manchester Railway Station,

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Food parcels from the New World and thoughts on family far away

Revisiting an old story

We got a food parcel today from Canada.

"a package of maple products from here in southwestern Ontario"
Along with a recipe book my cousin had included some typical products which “are characteristically Canadian and little harder to come across in England.”

So here was the tin of maple syrup, Maple Ice Wine Sauce, a packet of Maple tea and a collection of maple sweets and chocolate covered raisins.

And of course within minutes of opening the package I tried the sweets opened the wine sauce and pondered on making a maple tea.

It was a smashing idea made all the better for being unexpected, and it got me thinking about food from abroad and how such parcels bring you closer together with family far away.

Back when families were crossing the Atlantic or taking that even longer journey to new lives in Australia and New Zealand the arrival of parcels must have been a powerful link to all that they had left behind.

One group of letters I came across from a family who left Manchester for Kansas in the 1880s constantly refer to news from home, commenting on the political fortunes of Gladstone and the Liberal Party, the merits of Home Rule and the excitement of the arrival of a piano shipped via Liverpool which was none the worse for the long sea voyage.

The Harland family in 1913 in Canada
In the same way I am fascinated by our recent food parcel particularly because they have come direct from Canada.

These are not Canadian goods repackaged in some warehouse north of Slough but just as they came off the store shelf in Ingersol Ontario.

And I get the same mix of feelings when we have been visiting family in Italy and come home with the odd item.

So I rather think there are some stories here about food, migration and how we keep close to our families.

Now people travelled more often and much further in the 19th century than we are told in those school history books.

Even in the early 19th century there is evidence that some people were regularly travelling back and forth between Britain and bits of the Empire.

That said for most who undertook the trip to Canada, or Australia it was for keeps, a variation of that old theme “you make your bed and you lie in it” so anything that reminded them of home must have been fallen on eagerly cherished and then saved.

Much as I shall savour our food parcel.

Picture; parcel from Canada, Andrew Simpson courtesy of Chris, Andrea, Josh and Justin, 2014 and the Harland Family in Canada in 1913 from the collection of Jean Gammons

A picture a day .... Barlow Moor Road circa 1920s

A picture a day

During this week  I have decided to feature a picture a day drawn from the collections that spans a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of the Lloyd Collection

Another story from Tony Goulding ............. links between two Chorlton murders

Now it is always nice to see a fresh telling of story you have done.

I wrote about the murder of Francis Deakin in The Story of Chorlton-cum Hardy and now Tony Goulding has revisited it with an interesting link and I am pleased to say has uncovered more about the story with a link to a second better known murder.

The tranquil, small, (still) rural community of mid-nineteenth century Chorlton-cum-Hardy was rocked to its very foundations by two sensational crimes. The murder of Francis Deakin on  5th May 1847 and the "assassination" of P.C.Cock on 1st August 1876.

The case concerning the murder of P.C. Nicholas Cock by the most notorious master criminal of the mid-Victorian era, Charles Peace, together with the subsequent mis-carriage of justice, which saw
 The trial and wrongful conviction of a young Irishman William Habron, is a celebrated one. It even featured in a 1949 film "The Case of Charles Peace"
The earlier murder is perhaps less well known. An all-day drinking session involving three neighbours ending in tragedy. Frank Dakin (or Deakin ) and John Cookson, both market gardeners with small holdings (Deakin's being of 3 acres) near Chorlton Green, spent the day of 5th May 1847 drinking in the beer house kept by Mrs. Leach the wife of a local mechanic ,George Leach

According to the evidence , given at the inquest held in the “Horse and Jockey" and the trial at Liverpool , at about 4-00 pm , by which time the three men had been drinking ale (some laced with "six pennyworth" of rum ; provided by Cookson) for around 7 hours, Frank Deakin was fatally stabbed with a kitchen knife by George Leach; who was aggrieved that they had tried to intervene in an argument between him and his wife. The murdered man was just 35 and left a wife and six children, the youngest just three weeks old.

As a skilled .literate mechanic, when in work, George Leach could earn good wages but it appears that he had a volatile personality, fuelled by periodic problematic heavy alcohol use and had led a somewhat adventurous life.

At the time of his arrest he was 39 years old and in the employ of The Manchester and Leeds Railway at Newton, which necessitated him living away from home for weeks or fortnights at a time. He had previously worked in France for 18 months and just a month before the murder he had appeared in court as a co-defendant in “The Warrington Conspiracy" trial.

A 2 month long industrial dispute at  "Jones and Potts" steam engine works at Newton-in-Makerfield resulted in a huge trial of 26 officials and members of  " The  Journeymen Steam-engine Machine-maker and Millwrights Friendly Society " facing conspiracy charges. George was only found to be involved in "picketing"
Having been tried at the South Lancashire Assizes held at Liverpool Crown Court, on 11th August, George Leach was found guilty of "aggravated" manslaughter and sentenced to be transported for life. However, on 16th October 1851 following representations having been made, including by Salford's first M.P. Joseph Brother ton (who was part of the Grand Jury at his trial) and a Mrs. Catherine Crews of Holborn, George's sentence was commuted to 7 years transportation.

Due in part to a marked decline in the number of transportees being accepted by the various Australian states, George would never be sent and was  in fact discharged early on 6th July 1852 (His remorse and good behaviour whilst in prison are both well documented.) and returned to obscurity.
One of Francis Deakin's sons, Francis (Deakin) was involved in the later murder; the one of P.C.Cock. The Habron brothers who were accused of the crime -the youngest, William, being convicted were employed by him as agricultural labourers in his market gardening business.                      
There is also another link between the cases the "name above the door" of the beer shop run by the  Mrs. Leach where the stabbing of Frank Dakin took place was Charlotte Hayson (of Hobson Hall Farm ) whose grandson , Henry  was to give evidence at the trial of the Habrons. Apparently Charlotte was a relative of Mrs. Leach who procured the license in order to provide a stable income for her during her husband’s frequent absences.

Fortunately the death sentence passed on young William was commuted to life imprisonment. It remains a moot point, whether this was due to his youth (he was barely 18 at the time of the crime) or because the verdict was regarded as somewhat unsound; there being a suggestion that the evidence was very circumstantial (if not suspect) and there was some prejudice against the Habrons.

As Irishmen they may have also encountered distrust and hostility as a consequence of the prevailing violence associated with land disputes in Ireland.
On his release from custody William returned , with his £500 compensation to his childhood home in Ballyhaunis , Co. Mayo, Ireland  and appears to disappear from the available records, although there does exist a record of a William "Hebron" born 1890 in Ballyhaunis travelling to New York in 1911. It is possible this man is a son of one of the three Hebron brothers connected with the P.C.Cock murder or at least a near relative.
Finally the full report of the inquest on Francis Deakin in "The Manchester Courier and General Lancashire Advertiser”, of 8th May 1847, is a very detailed one which uses very flamboyant language. It includes a list of the jurors sworn in which is a veritable "Who's Who” of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy township of the time.

The flavour of the article is evident from the opening paragraph, which includes the following description of:-
    “The rural village of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a sweet quiet spot such as it is scarcely possible to conceive of as lying so contiguous to this overgrown, smoke-blackened conglomeration of bricks called Manchester ------"

On 18th.August the same paper reported the trial in great detail   from this it appears that George only avoided a murder conviction and a consequential death sentence by the work of his defence team led by one of the leading barristers of the day, Sergeant Wilkins.

The soundness of Cookson's testimony was questioned as evidence was given that he may have been too intoxicated to recall with accuracy what took place on the fatal day. Further suspicion of the reliability his evidence was also cast by a light being shone into his past activities as a "fiddler at country wakes", a "rat catcher”, and a "bullward"in bullfighting rings.

The defence also called Francis Rook Wragg described as a local surgeon and temperance advocate but more accurately a Chemist and Druggist of Sackville Street, Manchester.

He testified that he had visited the beer house at about 2-30 p.m.on the day in question staying for an hour in the hope of influencing George Leach to rejoin him in " The Total Abstinence Society" . He suffered some abuse from the murdered man, which his friend (George) took offence at, and also witnessed some other provocative behaviour both by Mr Cookson and by Francis Deakin himself.

©Tony Goulding

Pictures; the Horse and Jockey circa 1970 from the collection of Tony Goulding


The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 41 ............ remembering the bomb sites and much more

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

Now I know I am a dinosaur when I talk to my kids of playing on bomb sites.

For them the Second World War is just another bit of the past as remote as the victory of Wellington at Waterloo or Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon.

But if I am honest I don’t suppose bombsites featured that often in our leisure time but they were there and we did play on them.

And there were still plenty of other reminders of that conflict, from the still relatively fresh signs announcing EWS** sites and Shelters, to the gaps in terraced houses and open spaces.

Directly opposite us on Lausanne Road where a land mine had demolished a row of houses was one of those EWS sites which once held water in the event that the mains were hit during a raid.

The old cellar floors had been covered with a layer of pitch and the walls built up to create a huge tank.

There was another at top of the road and there would have been others.

Not that I experienced the bombing.  I was born in 1949 and my parents rarely spoke of it which left me to pick up snippets from films and comics which are not the most reliable way to learn your history.

Nor were there much in the way of TV documentaries, after all television was in its infancy and the war was still less than a decade away and still vivid enough for most people to want to leave the subject well alone.

I don’t think it even really impacted on us.

So there may have been bomb sites but essentially they were just open spaces with little to offer, unless it was the crypt on the roundabout by St Mary’s Road.

It had taken a direct hit and after rubble had been cleared away the entrances to the cellars blocked up.  It may even have been used as a makeshift shelter.

But for us in the 1950s it was place to explore.

And it attracted small groups of kids most of whom didn’t know each other but were united by a sense of adventure and a candle which offered a bit of light by which to venture down the stairs into the labyrinth.

I don’t know what we expected to find and from memory we found nothing.

Unlike the day Jimmy, John and I took our lives in our hands and wandered across a half demolished block of houses somewhere on Queens’ Road and came away with bits of metal and a gas mask still in its box.

Such treasures were not often come across and instead if you wanted a relic of the war you had to buy it from those army surplus shops.

One year I remember there was a craze for what must have been ammunition bags or gas mask holders.

They were made of green canvas with a strap and cost one shilling, and became an essential part of your clothing.

Of course surplus military equipment was everywhere and an old army great coat was as warm as anything you could buy at the clothes shop.

A fact which was reflected in my choice of clothes as a student in the late 1960s.

A navy blouse jacket, RAF great coat and an American combat jacket were still cheap, durable and did the business for a generation which missed National Service and so did not associate any of them with square bashing and endless fatigues.

I recently came across my old great coat which continued in my wardrobe as something I wore well into the early 80s.  It was an officer’s version with a fitted waist and was far superior to the first I bought which was nothing more than a tent.

But perhaps it’s best that they have long ago been discarded as fashion accessories, given that my son’s really would pronounce me as old and beyond the pale.

Pictures; Walter Green  House next to the site of an EWS, 2009 from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick, and surplus equipment,  Vintage Belgian Army Haversack Bag, 1950s, McGuire, RAF coat, from Vintage French Lifestyle,

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

**EWS, Emergency Water Supplies

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Time for a tram I think

Now I can’t pretend to know much about trams, except that this one which was one of the last in Manchester rolled in to the tram terminus on Barlow Moor Road on Sunday November 22nd 1942.

Now according to my dad I was there to see the last London tram clunk in to the New Cross depot from Woolwich in 1952.  By then here in Manchester they had been a thing of the past for over three years.

The decision to get rid of the old bone shakers had been made as early as 1930 but like so many things the last world war had intervened and the end of the tram was delayed till 1949.  At their peak in 1928 Manchester trams carried 328 million passengers on 953 trams via 46 routes and along 292 miles of track.

Leaving the old tram terminus on Barlow Moor Road you could have rattled north along routes which took the traveller via Wilbraham Road, or Upper Chorlton Road and Seymour Grove towards town.  Alternatively there was always the route south past Southern Cemetery to West Didsbury.  And no doubt there will be someone who will be able to get give me the tram route numbers and describe in detail the journey along the Parkway, and Wilmslow Road.

So the trams bit by bit gave way to the bus and the trolley bus.

I really would have liked to have traveled on one, despite my Dad who was very dismissive of them claiming that they were uncomfortable, noisy and liable to breakdown.  Not that I ever reckoned the trolley buses which superseded them.

My memories of the Derby trolley buses were of sleek green machines that glided along almost silently and were always guaranteed to make me feel sick.  Perhaps it was that distinctive smell, a mixture of leather and disinfectant which with the warmth of the inside made me feel ill.

Still they also have gone to be replaced by the ever bigger and not always very pleasant bus.  But then there is always the metro tram.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Changing Manchester ............... no 1 crossing from Knott Mill Station to the Metro

Now I haven’t been down to the new bridge that spans Whitworth Street West, but Andy Robertson has and recorded the event.

Now I liked the old bridge when it was first erected back in the 1980s but it had become tired and in need of lots of tender care.

But I suppose it was better to replace it with something new which reflected what was going on all around, and I have to say I like it.

Which just leaves me to add that Andy carried on down Deansgate so there are more pictures to come, and apologise to anyone who thinks I should of course refer to Deansgate Station but the last time I wrote about it someone pointed out that he knew it as Knott Mil which of course it what it was called and even has the sign to show it.

And just one correction which I added after the story was first posted .................. to be accurate as my old friend Neil Simpson points out "they removed all the perspex covers and refurbished the original bridge" which of course makes sense.

Picture; the new bridge over Whitworth Street West, 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson.

Watching Eltham change .............. nu 1 down at Court Yard

Now we all tend to take where we live for granted.

A shop closes, a new building goes up and someone publishes a bold new plan for a redevelopment and very soon it’s hard to remember what had been there.

So it’s always good when those changes are documented.

For those in the Eltham Society there are Mr Kennett’s regular updates under Eltham Notes in the quarterly newsletter which detail everything from new shops to changed bus routes, road signs and much else.

And recently Larissa has begun to record the development at Court Yard.  She passes it on the way to work and has begun photographing the changes which will be a tremendous record of the transformation of this bit of Eltham.

So here is one of the latest pictures, taken a few days ago.

Picture; the Grove Market development, August 2015, from the collection of Larissa Hemment

*The Eltham Society,

Searching the records of two Camberwell cemeteries has just become a bit easier

Now I don’t have any one buried in Camberwell but I bet there will be plenty of people who do so it might be of interest the burial books from two south London cemeteries are available online.

Details of more than 300,000 burials at Camberwell Old and Camberwell New cemeteries have been uploaded to where they can be searched by name and year of internment, according to WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? magazine.*

As well as a scan of the page on which the entry appears, each record contains a grid reference and links to a cemetery map, enabling the family historian to determine the exact location of their ancestor’s resting place.

Both sets of digitised records date back to the years in which the cemeteries first opened.

For Camberwell New Cemetery this is 1927 while for Camberwell Old Cemetery users can explore material from as early as 1856.

The release of the new datasets means Deceased Online now holds more than 700,000 records for cemeteries owned by Southwark Council.

Records from Honour Oak Crematorium, situated in the grounds of Camberwell New Cemetery, will be added in the next few weeks.**

Searching is FREE, and can be restricted as required to country, region, county, or individual burial authority or crematorium. If you register with Deceased Online, you will be able to purchase vouchers online, which you can spend to access further information associated with any of the found records. Or you can pay annual subscription of £89.

Pictures; Nunhead Cemetery from the collection of Sue Simpson

* WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?, September 2015,  issue 104,

** Deceased Online,

Friday, 28 August 2015

Walking in Nunhead Cemetery

Now I have returned to Nunhead Cemetery to feature a series of photographs taken by Susan Simpson during the summer.

Like many people it is a place which has a special magic offering somewhere to browse the history of our part of south east London, catch up on some fascinating wild life and just enjoy the peace and solitude.

So here is the first of a number of Sue’s pictures that capture all of that and a bit more.

Picture; Nunhead Cemetery, 2015, © Susan Simpson, 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Still in Martledge in 1910 with Red Gate Farm in the distance

Yesterday we were in Martledge around 1910 just beyond the junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Road.

Today we have moved just a little further along and looking down towards Manchester Road with Red Gate Farm in the distance behind the tram.

Until quite recently Manchester Road was a continuous thoroughfare which crossed Wilbraham Road and by degree twisted and turned all the way to West Point.

But the development of the precinct and the building of the car park cut the road, and so while once it ran on beside Sedge Lynn and Barlow Moor Road past the farm which became the library now it is in two halves.

What I like about the image are the trees which front the houses on our right, all now vanished save for a few spindly ones on the kerb side.

And there also is what I think will be one of the orginal street lamps.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Summer in the City

For no particular reason other than I took them and they are of Manchester, here is a short series celebrating places I like.

All have appeared before and some a long time ago.

Pictures; around Manchester 2002-2015

The one that landed on Hazel Grove golf course ........... stories of war and remembrance

Now if you belong to my generation one of the things you will remember fondly are the Airfix kits which offered a youngster the pleasure of assembling a whole range of plastic models from ships, and planes, to cars and tanks.

He 111 over Poland September 1939
They came in different scales but if you were serious and had limited pocket money then it was the 1:72 scale planes that fitted the bill.

The cheapest were I think two shillings and sixpence and came in a plastic bag of which the Spitfire, Hurricane and Messerschmitt 109 and 110 were the most popular.

But going up range meant six shillings and a boxed kit of which for me the German Heinkel He 111 bomber was a favourite more so because of the glazed greenhouse nose which was a later adaption to a design which had begun as a cargo plane in the early 1930s.

Now of course at the age of nine or ten it is difficult to separate the joy of assembling and painting the model with its actual lethal purpose, but I was reminded of this only yesterday when I came across the story of the He 111 which was shot down and crashed in Hazel Grove in May 1941 and by one of those strange twists of coincidence the plane that crashed was the same variant as the one I spent hours trying to recreate.

This was the He 111 P4 which entered service just before the outbreak of the war and was used in Poland and later the Battle of Britain.

He 111 battery box 2015
Our particular downed plane was on its way to Liverpool but was diverted to Manchester when it was intercepted and shot down crashing in a field belonging to Springfield Farm, close to Hazel Grove golf course.

The RAF crew responsible were Flight Lieutenant E C Deansley who had fought in the Battle of Britain and his rear air gunner Sergeant W J Scott.

Now the story was covered by the local press but I doubt I would have ever come across it had my old friend David Harrop not acquired a battery box from the destroyed aircraft.

And to be truthful I wouldn’t have made the connection between the box and my plastic kit had not David told me the story.

Nor is that quite the end because along with a lot of other material from his collection they will be on display at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery later in the year to mark the climax of the Battle Britain which happened 75 years ago.

Battery Box 2015
And like so many in David’s collection these are more personal and have the power to transport you back to the conflict.

Which is all I am going to say, other than that the four German crew parachuted out and were captured by the Home Guard almost allowing me to adapt that line “for you the war is over.”

But those events of three quarters of a century ago were all too serious and that is part of the purpose of the exhibition which is less to glorify the conflict but more to mark the sacrifice of that generation.

Pictures; the Heinkel He 111 over Poland, September 1939 from the German Federal Archive featured in  Heinkel He 111 Wickipedia
 and and two the battery box from the collection of David Harrop.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Memories of Eltham in the 1930s and 40s ............. from Daniel Murphy

Sitting on the shelter
It is always a privilege to have contributions from people and so here are some of the memories of Daniel Murphy from the Eltham of the 1930s and 40s.

When in 1937 this photograph was taken, I was 2 years old, my mother had been shopping on Eltham High Street and we were on our way home when a street photographer took our picture.   I remember the incident, mum giving him our address and paying him some money for the photo, which we received later in the post.

In the summer of 1937 we moved from Merrifield road to Rossway on the Progress Estate,  my mother, my father,  two brothers, my grandmother and my aunt Lil (my mother`s oldest sister),  we all lived together.  

By the end of 1937 my grandmother was dead.   She died in September,  aged 72 years.

Two days before she died we were gathered in her bedroom where she was acting strangely; propped up in her bed and pointing out of the window.  “Look, look” she was saying “look at all the fires in the sky, look at all the fighting up there, it`s terrible”.  She repeated this again and again until we agreed we could all see it, but of course we couldn't.

In the High Street
Three years later, in 1940, we could.   The Woolwich and Silvertown docks were on fire.    The sky was black with smoke, and bombers and fighter planes filled to sky and we spent many of our days, and nights in the air-raid shelter.

But firstly sometime around the end of August 1939, we were evacuated.    We were put on a train at Well Hall station and taken off again at Dartford,   which surprised all of us, my mother in particular, since she was expecting to be taken into the country far away from London.   Well, we were,   sort of, we were put on a coach and driven to Ash in Kent;    a mile or two from Brands  Hatch.

Once there, we were ushered into the village hall and directed to sit on chairs arranged around the sides of the room.   Then the locals came in and selected their refugee(s).     We were chosen, my mother, my brother Terry, me and another lady and her son,    by a man and his daughter, Joan.

He was the village butcher and so we were all billeted in his house, which had the butchers shop at the front, and a slaughter house with a hay loft and a stable at the back.   The stable housed a beautiful chestnut horse belonging to Joan.   For me it was just like going on holiday;   I loved it.  

On the third of September I was out walking with mother when a man came down the road calling out that we were at war with Germany.  

Ash Village
I immediately began crying because I thought that now I would have to put my gas mask on and keep it on `till the war finished, but I was only four years old.   Anyway, about a hundred yards away was the White Swan Inn and people from the village were rushing to get in there, so we joined them.  

Reason for the rush became clear when we learned that they had a RADIO!  

We all crammed into their back room and listened to Chamberlain`s declaration of war:   I got a glass of orange juice to keep me quiet.

A week or two after this, my mother decided we should all go home.

At home we found that an Anderson shelter had been delivered; in several pieces.   I decided it would be great to play on, so I got out my cars.  It was a hot sunny day so my mother brought me out a hat, and a comic.  

Later she sneaked a photo of me.    A few days later, some men came to erect it down the garden.     Little did I know then that we would be sleeping in there night after night during the blitz.

© Daniel Murphy

Pictures; from the collection of Daniel Murphy

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

So who took the name sign of the Railway Inn at Cornbrook?

Now there is that old saying about stealing pennies from a blind man which might well apply to the missing sign above what is left of the Railway Inn on the corner of Cornbrook Road and Dover Street.*

Time hasn’t been kind to the remains of the place.

But the stealing of the sign seems to be the last straw.

Of course it may have been taken down to preserve it in which case it should in the fullness of time appear in a museum but I suspect it is more likely it now graces someone’s house having been sold on by the person or persons who took it down.

There will be those who say that even this is better than just letting it slowly decay but I am not so sure.

Of course even a pub sign has a history even if this one will date from recently and as such there is an argument for its preservation but equally taking it away robs it of its context.

All of which leaves me wondering where it has gone and whether it will ever be seen by the public again.

I owe both pictures to Andy Robertson who having taken the first image last year and by chance was passing again to record this little bit of vandalism

Pictures; the Railway Inn, 2014, and 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson


Monday, 24 August 2015

A sorry tale of Sardinia Wi Fi and lots of thank yous

Now the villa we spent a chunk of August offered Wi Fi, which was true but only up to a point.

It was open for an hour and bit from 5 till just after 6 in the morning and started up again at 11 till midnight.

So this is a way of a thank you to Peter, Lois, Chrissy, David and Lois who picked up the blog and posted it on to facebook and twitter.

And I have returned with a bout of man flu!

Picture; looking out at the north east coast of Sardinia from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A packet of cereal, a free offer and more Flags of the World

What I like about history is the way it comes in all shapes and sizes.

Now I have never been one for Kings, Queens and famous people who after all only shaped the past with the help of a lot of other people, most of whom were too poor, too illiterate or just too plain unlucky to get even a footnote in a history book.

And I rather think it is an approach which is shared by lots of other people who want their slice of history to be about the lives of people like themselves with just a century or too between them and their ancestors.

So here as much because its about my childhood in the the 1950s as anything are a selection of those products which appeared in our our house in Lausanne Road a full sixty years ago.

Many I think were bought by mum because I had been seduced by the give away toy although I know she ended up with one brand of soap powder for years because of the free plastic tulip that came stick to the side of the packet.

In the case of that brand of cereal it varied from the stamp collecting set to the plastic racing cars and the model divers.

Of these I have to confess the last was the most disappointing.

The idea was to add a little baking powder into a hole in the helmet and drop the model into a bowl of water where upon it would shoot to the surface in a cascade of bubbles.

Mine however just floated on the surface mocking all my efforts to make it work and reinforcing my German grandmother’s stern rebuke that “what you get for free isn’t worth a lot.”

And those 1 free promotions, just kept on coming whether it was the stamp kit, the boomerang or those plastic flowers.

Two decades earlier it had been the newspapers which offered giveaways, now it is that seductive offer of two for one which invariably looks good in the supermarket but ends up not being used up by the sell by date.

So give me the free offer, and the more plastic and tacky the better, just as long as it’s not the deep sea diver.

And somewhere lost for half a century and a bit will be my collection of Flags of the World, which were sold with a piece of bubble gum.

I wrote about them yesterday but couldn't resist returning to them.  They were part educational became a plaything and a medium of exchange in the playground and came with that thin slice of bubble gum.

It you were lucky the bubble gum was still a bit soft, but more often it was hard, brittle and flaky with a slight dusting of white powder.

It was pretty revolting stuff and powerful enough to give the cards a light smell of the gum that lingered long after the bubble gum had been eaten

Picture; adverts from Eagle May 30 1959, and Flags of the World, courtesy of 
Flags of the World,

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Yesterdays adverts

Now I like ghosts signs.

These were  hand painted adverts which during the 19th and 20th centuries were on display on the sides of buildings.

Some by luck or neglect or good judgement have been preserved long after the shop owner, the company or the product have vanished and been forgotten. Most are now faded and difficult you see but a few are still around like the ones I posted.

Adverts have the power to take you back into the past. It is not just what they sell but often the assumptions that underlie them.

They take you back to a time when consumption delivered happiness, gender roles and expectations were clear and the future was always bright and confident.

Of course certain periods seem to echo this more than others.

If you grew up in the 50s you were part of that mounting belief that we had never had it so good, and that the grim years of depression war and hardships were things of the past.

Most of the time it isn’t obvious at first glance but at other times it can pull you up with a bump.

Who could now believe the tobacco adverts which confidently asserted in 1939 that that “Craven A Will not affect your throat” of that “after every meal” a certain brand of chewing gum “keeps you fit”?

Adverts also have a way of fixing a moment in time and open up other clues as to how we lived and what was going when they were designed and put up. A.E. Landers captured these images in the spring and summer of 1960. 

The advertising hoardings ran along Wilbraham Road, in front of the railway. The smaller collection had stood close to the corner with Buckingham Road while the larger group were on the Chorlton side of the bridge.

The catalogue in the digital archives gives the date of both collections as 1960 but it is possible to be more specific.

The smaller collection were posted just before Easter because one of the four advertises the Bell Vue Easter Parade, while the larger group lists thr forthcoming films at the Essoldo on Barlow Moor Road for the June of 1960.

So in the spring and early summer of 1960 people in Chorlton had a choice of entertainment.

And there was also music at the Halle and a Festival of Magic at the Library Theatre.

But my eye was caught by the Ice Palace on Derby Road off Cheetham Hill Road in Strangeways.

 Now I know the place but sadly not as a place of fun. Today it houses a collection of small businesses and is sprouting wild plants from its once elegant facade. But something of its former glory is still there.

“The Manchester Ice Palace was opened in 1910 and was once the finest ice skating rink in the world, the biggest in the UK and twice largest in Europe, and home to the Manchester Ice Hockey Club. 14000 square feet of ice was provided by an ice plant across the road and 2000 seats held Edwardian spectators at the National Ice Skating Championships and the 1922 World Championships.

The rink was later put to more prosaic use, holding munitions practice during the war before closing in the 1960s and becoming a bottling plant for Lancashire Dairies.”*

Older friends have vivid memories of the place, and back in the 1930s it was one of these places to go.

Now ice skating has never had much appeal for me so I guess I would have settled for the films at the Essoldo.

Sign of the Gladiator was one of those “sword and sandal” films which came out of Italy in the late 1950s and early 60s.

It was made with an international cast in 1959 and a fairly predictable plot which nevertheless made it slightly more appealing than Fabian The Hound Dog Man, also made in 1959. 

It was a vehicle for the American teen idol Fabian and looking at clips and listening to the lead song I would rather have watched paint dry.

But back to the adverts. There is something quite delightful about them. They are familiar enough but just manage to pull you out of today.

It is there in the stylish clothes of the woman, the slightly dated dress of the ice skater and of course the iconic 60’s slogan “Drink a pinta milka day”. But for me it is the Express Freight poster which perfectly captures style of the period

Pictures; Wilbraham Road, A.E. Landers 1960, m18316 & Wilbraham Road, m18318, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

* Natalie Bradbury from her blog and quoted from the post

The Ballad of Peckham Rye ............ revisiting a book from 1960

Now it will be forty-four years since I read The Ballad of Peckham Rye, and a full 55 since my mother first brought a copy into the house.*

She raved over what was a bizarre comedy about Dougal Douglas who had been hired to “bring vision into the lives of the workers in a Peckham firm [and] introduced the wider horizons of tears, absenteeism, fraud, blackmail violence and murder.”**

Now I  wonder to what extent it captures that Peckham I grew up in  and I have to say after forty-four years I can’t remember, but on looking at what other people thought I was captured by two short quotes from another blog***

“Mr Weedin blew his nose and shouted at Dougal: ‘It isn’t possible to get another good position in another firm at my age……….Sometimes I think I’m going to have a breakdown.’ ‘It would not be severe in your case,’ Dougal said. ‘It is at its worst when a man is a skyscraper. But you’re only a nice wee bungalow”


“Merle ….sat down on the Rye and began to cry. ‘God!’ she said. ‘Dougal. I’ve had a rotten life’. ‘And it isn’t over yet,’ Dougal said sitting down beside her at a little distance. ‘There might be worse ahead’!!!!!!”

All of which promises a fascinating read if a tad away from my Peckham in 1960.

Picture; cover of the 1968 edition of The Ballad of Peckham Rye, photograph by Robert Croxford

* The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Murial Spark , 1960

**sleeve notes to the 1963 Penguin edition.

***What I thought of The Ballad of Peckham Rye, April 2012

Back on Lausanne Road ............... sometime around 2000 with a little bit of technological history

Stepping back the 3310, circa 2000
Now as phones go the Nokia 3310 is as obsolete as our old valve wireless and sits in the history of mobile communication somewhere in the Dark Ages.

But long after the pop up hand set, or all the variations of smart phones have had their day there will be a place for the Nokia 3310.

It was released at the end of 2000 and replaced the 3210 which was the first mass market mobile with an internal antenna, allowed you to send preinstalled pictures and played Snake.

I think mine was a 3310 but it is just possible it was a 3210, but we are talking a long time ago and it may even be that I upgraded.

Either way I have decided to downgrade to the 3310 which is perhaps no great slide back into history given that my present phone is a 6310 which already puts me walking with dinosaurs.

My old 3310 long went, having been lent to two of my eldest sons when their more clever phones gave up the ghost.  It was much knocked about and finally was held together by celotape, but still it worked, until finally with no back, chipped and scratched it was lost.

So this relic of a past age which I shall be using belonged to Simone who would have bought it sometime around 2000 in Varese a small town an hour from Milan.

Discarded and forgotten
It did for him for 14 years and now sits in our house waiting for the bits to bring it back to life.

Already I have the sim card and eagerly await a charger which with luck will be here within the week.

All of which may seem a non story but the 3310 was and is a piece of history.  Its predecessor the 3210 sold 160 million while it sold 126 million and both are still fondly remembered.

And the general consensus has been that it is a pretty neat idea to bring such a stylish and historic phone out of the past and while I may not be able to find out the price of fish in Rome, or the best route to Halifax, the battery on my 3210 will not run out by midday, when I drop it it it will just bounce and yes I will in the absence of Wi fi and internet just sit and play Snake.

So a new lease of life for an old favourite which will be better than the assortment of discarded phones I found in a draw.

All were owned by various members of the family and all abandoned for  sleeker and more expensive models.

Now there is the germ of another story.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Summer in the City

Now for no particular reason other than I took them and they are of Manchester, here is a short series celebrating places I like.

All have appeared before and some a long time ago.

Pictures; around Manchester 2002-2015

Saturday, 22 August 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

Growing up in New Cross nu 13 ....... Queen Tika, Gene Autry and a hidden city and 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 pictures.

The Phantom Riders 
So distant is the memory that I can now no longer even remember much of the cinema

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.

Queen Ticka, a robot and Lord Argo
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.

The Posters from Eagle Times
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.

Eagle Times spring 2015
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.

Not that  had any idea about all this 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

The photograph which begs a story

I have no idea who this woman is or where and when the picture was taken.

But that doesn’t diminish my interest in the photograph.

It comes from David Harrop who has kindly given me access to what is a fascinating collection of letters, postcards and photographs spanning the late 19th century to the present.*

At the core of the collection are a priceless array of material from the two world wars which provide an insight into how people got on with their lives during these conflicts.

And so back to the photograph which shows a woman working in a back yard.

She could be a servant which is a reasonable guess given that she appears to be wearing a uniform.

But the picture was one of a number of which all the rest showed a young man from the Great War and so I guess she may be his grandmother carrying on a set of domestic chores on a warm summer's day.

Sadly I guess we will never know.

But it remains one of those pictures which draws you in and prompts a whole range of questions which is just as it should be.

Picture; unknown woman, date unknown, from the collection of David Harrop

*David Harrop, 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Chorltonville and a milkman

Another picture of Chorltonville, South Drive and a milkman
Picture from the Lloyd collection

Summer days in south Manchester No 2 early morning on Chorlton Green in 1975

For most of us this will be a familiar scene but it is now as much a part of history as any of those old monochrome images from the beginning of the last century.

We are on the green facing the Horse and Jockey with the Beech over to our right.

The only concession to outside drinking is the solitary bench by the entrance.

I can’t remember whether the pub went in for those rickety chairs and tables which would appear outside most pubs at the first hint of sun but I think not.

This would in turn explain why on most summer’s evenings the crowds would sprawl across the green late into the night, leaving a collection of glasses and empty bottles with the odd chip paper as a reminder of a night out.

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker