Thursday, 1 October 2015

Snaps of Chorlton nu 18 .............. back on St Clements Road and tracing the story of one shop

I can’t remember when the shops on this stretch of St Clements Road were converted into purely residential use.

Back in the 1970s when it must have happened I didn’t really take much notice of such things and that is a shame because the corner shop or more technically those little retail outlets which could be found everywhere are passing into history.

A few survive and some new ones have opened up around Chorlton in the last few years, but most have vanished.

They catered to the immediate streets were often “open all hours” and pretty much had everything you wanted.

And in the way of these things some were set up by enterprising individuals, in converted terrace houses and as the tide went out for these shops the house reverted to residential use.

All of which brings me to William Henry Caldwell who was living in that middle property by 1883 and took the bold decision to become a shop keeper in 1887.

He and his wife Hannah were living in Chorlton by 1870 and over the course of the next few decades gave his occupation as “a farm labourer” and “day gardener” and this may be the clue to what he sold and if he was green grocer of sorts than there is a neat bit of continuity here because at the beginning of the last century the shop was still listed as such.

By 1887 he would have been 44 and I guess a future as a farm labourer in an area which was fast becoming urbanised may have seemed precarious and given that by then there were plenty of houses round about it made sense to set up selling food.

Nor was he alone in multi tasking.  Throughout the history of the township plenty of people pursued a number of different trades and in some cases looked to opening a shop as a short term measure to ride out a period of unemployment or just make ends meet.

After 1830 there seems to have been a flurry in opening beer shops some of which had a short lease of life, which might have been down to bad luck poor management or in a rural community the return of full time work on the land.

I doubt we will ever know for sure what Mr Caldwell sold or why in the August of 1891 he moved out and the premises was rented by Mr and Mrs Percival who described themselves as tailors.

Theirs was just a short interregnum in the shops connection with food and by the 1960s it was a grocers shop run by Mr England who has featured already in the story of St Clements Road.

And today look closely and it is possible to see the later alterations which were undertaken to return it to full residential use.

Picture; St Clements Road, 2015 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the shop  sometime in the 1970s, courtesy of Paul England

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